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Journal of Botany
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 389247, 12 pages
Research Article

Plant Fitness Assessment for Wild Relatives of Insect Resistant Bt-Crops

Department of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA

Received 2 August 2011; Accepted 11 November 2011

Academic Editor: William K. Smith

Copyright © 2012 D. K. Letourneau and J. A. Hagen. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


When field tests of transgenic plants are precluded by practical containment concerns, manipulative experiments can detect potential consequences of crop-wild gene flow. Using topical sprays of bacterial Bacillus thuringiensis larvicide (Bt) and larval additions, we measured fitness effects of reduced herbivory on Brassica rapa (wild mustard) and Raphanus sativus (wild radish). These species represent different life histories among the potential recipients of Bt transgenes from Bt cole crops in the US and Asia, for which rare spontaneous crosses are expected under high exposure. Protected wild radish and wild mustard seedlings had approximately half the herbivore damage of exposed plants and 55% lower seedling mortality, resulting in 27% greater reproductive success, 14-day longer life-spans, and 118% more seeds, on average. Seed addition experiments in microcosms and in situ indicated that wild radish was more likely to spread than wild mustard in coastal grasslands.