Cultivation of genetically modified sugar beet H7-1

Advisory reports | 26.10.2009 | 091026-01

The present application by KWS Saat AG and Monsanto Europe S.A. (file EFSA/GMO/DE/2008/63) concerns cultivation of the genetically modified sugar beet H7-1.
Sugar beet H7-1 expresses the cp4 epsps gene. As a result this sugar beet is tolerant to glyphosate containing herbicides.
Sugar beet volunteers are almost never formed outside the field. However, in an agricultural environment volunteers may be formed from the seed that is produced by bolters, but also from plant crowns or portions of roots that are left on the field after harvest. In the soil, sugar beet seed can survive for a long period and may form a source of volunteer weeds. There are no indications that sugar beet can form feral populations outside an agricultural environment and there is no reason to assume that H7-1 sugar beet has an increased fitness or an increased potential to establish feral populations. Sugar beet may fertilize other beet species. Therefore, the glyphosate tolerance trait can be introduced into other cultivated beet species, weed beets and into wild sea beet. Glyphosate tolerance will only provide a selective advantage in an agricultural environment when glyphosate is used and will not provide a selective advantage under other conditions. Other herbicides will remain available that can be used to control weedy glyphosate tolerant beets. These herbicides cannot be used in a sugar beet crop, because sugar beets are also sensitive to these herbicides. COGEM points out that this situation is comparable to the current situation, where conventional weed beets cannot be controlled when sugar beet is cultivated.
COGEM is of the opinion that the molecular characterization of H7-1 sugar beet contains shortcomings. A small unexplained fragment appears to be present in the Southern blot that was carried out to detect backbone fragments. An explanation for the presence of this fragment should be provided. In addition, the applicant states that the basepairs flanking the cp4 epsps expression cassette correspond to sugar beet genomic DNA. This is not substantiated with data. The applicant should provide analyses that show the identity of the flanking regions of the cp4 epsps expression cassette. Furthermore, the bioinformatic analysis that was carried out on the junctions between the cp4 epsps expression cassette and its flanking regions was performed in 2003. The applicant states that the sequence of the cp4 epsps expression cassette may not be used for analysis in non-secured databases. COGEM is of the opinion that it is unacceptable that an old BLAST analysis is provided and that the provided sequences may not be analysed.
Furthermore, the General Surveillance plan should be improved on several points. The farm questionnaire should be complemented with additional questions. In addition, in order to allow detection of delayed and/or indirect effects, General Surveillance should also be carried out after cultivation of sugar beet H7-1. Therefore, if sugar beet H7-1 is cultivated until the end of the authorization period, General Surveillance should not be terminated at the end of the authorization period but should be continued for a prolonged period.
In conclusion, COGEM is of the opinion that the file concerning cultivation of sugar beet H7-1 contains inadequacies.  The applicant should provide information on the remaining issues before a decision on the authorization for cultivation of H7-1 sugar beet is taken by the competent authorities.

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