Establishment of transgenic herbicide-resistant creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.) in nonagronomic habitats


Jay R. Reichman, Fax: (541) 754–4799; E-mail:


Concerns about genetically modified (GM) crops include transgene flow to compatible wild species and unintended ecological consequences of potential transgene introgression. However, there has been little empirical documentation of establishment and distribution of transgenic plants in wild populations. We present herein the first evidence for escape of transgenes into wild plant populations within the USA; glyphosate-resistant creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.) plants expressing CP4 EPSPS transgenes were found outside of cultivation area in central Oregon. Resident populations of three compatible Agrostis species were sampled in nonagronomic habitats outside the Oregon Department of Agriculture control area designated for test production of glyphosate-resistant creeping bentgrass. CP4 EPSPS protein and the corresponding transgene were found in nine A. stolonifera plants screened from 20 400 samples (0.04 ± 0.01% SE). CP4 EPSPS-positive plants were located predominantly in mesic habitats downwind and up to 3.8 km beyond the control area perimeter; two plants were found within the USDA Crooked River National Grassland. Spatial distribution and parentage of transgenic plants (as confirmed by analyses of nuclear ITS and chloroplast matK gene trees) suggest that establishment resulted from both pollen-mediated intraspecific hybridizations and from crop seed dispersal. These results demonstrate that transgene flow from short-term production can result in establishment of transgenic plants at multi-kilometre distances from GM source fields or plants. Selective pressure from direct application or drift of glyphosate herbicide could enhance introgression of CP4 EPSPS transgenes and additional establishment. Obligatory outcrossing and vegetative spread could further contribute to persistence of CP4 EPSPS transgenes in wild Agrostis populations, both in the presence or absence of herbicide selection.