GM Risk Assessment: Pollen carriage from Brassica napus to B. rapa varies widely between pollinators

Sandra Ronca, Joel Allainguillaume, Caroline Ford, John Warren, Michael Wilkinson

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Characterizing insect pollen carriage between closely related plant species is especially challenging where source species possess morphologically identical pollen and share many pollinators in common. Here, we use an SNP-based assay using the plant DNA barcoding locus matK to characterize pollen carriage between cultivated Brassica napus and wild B. rapa in three sites across southern England. The assay differentiated B. napus and B. rapa pollen carried by honey bees (Apis melifera), bumblebees (Bombus spp.), mining bees (Andrena spp.) and hoverflies (Syrphidae) captured on B. napus plants 1–2 m from wild B. rapa, and on B. rapa plants at various distances from the crop. Apis individuals foraging on B. rapa and carrying B. napus pollen were rarely found beyond 10 m from the crop. However, Bombus and Andrena individuals captured on B. rapa occasionally carried crop pollen up to 300 m from the source field. Hoverflies (Syrphidae) carried less pollen overall but featured high proportions of B. napus pollen even at the most distant capture points. We predict that different pollinator species will evoke markedly different patterns of interspecific hybrid formation. We conclude that more exhaustive surveys of this kind will help parameterize future mechanistic models to predict the distribution of hybrids between Genetically Modified B. napus and B. rapa on a landscape scale
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Early online date06 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2017


  • pollinators
  • GM-crops
  • pyrosequencing
  • pollen
  • barcode
  • Brassica


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