Testing genetically engineered potato, producing the lectins GNA and Con A, on non-target soil organisms and processes.

Published online
04 May 2000
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Griffiths, B. S. & Geoghegan, I. E. & Robertson, W. M.

Publication language


Two lectins, concanavalin A (Con A) and Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA), have anti-feedant properties that suggest a potential for the control of invertebrate pests of plants. Genetically engineered potato plants were tested to produce each of these lectins constitutively, as well as the purified lectins, for possible non-target effects. Laboratory studies with soil bacterial communities and a ciliate protozoan could detect no direct effect of either lectin over a range of concentrations. There was a significant inhibition in the host-finding response of a bacterial-feeding nematode when Con A or GNA was present in the medium at 0.5-50 µg ml-1. A number of GNA- and Con A-producing potato lines had no detectable effects on the rhizosphere microbial and microfaunal populations when examined in pot trials. The incorporation of leaves from transgenic plants into soil reduced protozoan populations significantly, but there was no subsequent effect on the decomposition of added cotton strips. Controlled field-release experiments demonstrated that, although GNA-producing potato lines consistently altered the physiological profile of the rhizosphere microbial community at harvest, the effect did not persist from one season to the next over a trial period of two field seasons. There was no significant effect of the best performing GNA line on the development of a subsequent barley crop. A single Con A-producing line was tested in a controlled field-release. The only significant effects were transient reductions of ∼40% in soil protozoan populations and of ∼10% in potential microbial activity.

Key words