The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

Non technical abstract

The case for institutional and

 biological mechanisms to 

control GM gene flow


           Stuart Smyth, 
Graduate Student, Biotechnology, University of Saskatchewan

           George Khachatourians, 
Professor of Applied Microbiology 
and Food Science, 
University of Saskatchewan

Peter W.B. Phillips, 
Professor of Agriculture Economics, NSERC/SSHRC Chair in Managing Knowledge-based Agri-food Development, University of Saskatchewan


In October 1999 Robert Shapiro, Monsanto CEO said: “We are making a public commitment not to commercialize sterile seed technologies, such as the one dubbed ‘terminator’.” Many viewed this statement favourably. However costs from cross-pollination and volunteer growth of genetically modified (GM) crops are rising. By 2003, GM wheat and new “third generation” crop varieties will increase the need to control co-mingling of GM seeds.

Worldwide, importing nations are becoming increasingly concerned with the compositional contents of imported raw commodities. Crop purity is under greater scrutiny. When StarLink™ corn co-mingled with unmodified corn destined for the food industry, concerns about containment and purity left the backrooms and were splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the world. Governments, industry and scientists are keenly interested in finding the right mix of institutions and science to manage these risks, in order to bring forward new crops with potentially even greater value.

   Present crop production practises in Western Canada are faced with two growing concerns: cross-pollination of GM crop varieties with conventional varieties and controlling the growth of volunteer GM seeds. Cross-pollination of GM crops with conventional or organic crops concerns many producers that are trying to produce products for the organic and non-GM niche markets. Controlling the growth of volunteer GM seeds can be done chemically, but at an added cost for producers. Both of these issues need to be rapidly addressed to ensure that the adoption rate of GM crops remains high and that the commercialization of future varieties is not jeopardized.



Paper presented for the 5th International Conference of the International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR) on " The Economics of Agricultural Biotechnology " Ravello, Italy, June 14-19, 2001.

Contact S. Smyth, Agricultural Economics, University of Saskatchewan, 51 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, Canada S7N 5A8; tel: 306-966-8411; fax: 306-966-8413; email:


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