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Media Briefing: Gene flow initiative

14 June 2005

Media Briefing on the outcomes of the Gene Flow in Plants and Microorganisms Initiative

Where: Copthorne Tara Hotel, Scarsdale Place, Kensington, London, W8 5SR
When: 10am, 23 June 2005

The GM crops debate, and the high public concern in the UK, has focussed attention on the need for a greater understanding of the science behind the flow of genetic material in the environment to inform risk assessments. Scientists investigating the processes involved in, and the likelihood and potential impact of, the transfer of genetic material from genetically modified and conventionally-bred plants to the environment will present the results of a five-year programme at a meeting in London on 23 June.

The Gene Flow in Plants and Microorganisms Initiative, launched by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in November 2000, looked at the likelihood of gene transfer from plants and other organisms, and the potential outcomes of such transfers. The aim of the initiative was to increase knowledge of what happens when new or ‘foreign’ genes are inserted into an organism’s genome, what mechanisms control the insertion, whether inserted genetic material can transfer between organisms (gene flow) and, if so, what the consequences of any gene flow might be.

Researchers also investigated how genetic modification of plants might be carried out in order to reduce the likelihood of the transfer of inserted genes from transformed plants. Other projects included studies on the likelihood of gene transfer between plants and other organisms and on the potential impact of gene transfer on insects feeding on GM plants.

There will be the opportunity for individual interviews and a full media pack on the Gene Flow Initiative will be available.

The speakers include:

Professor Phil Dale – aims, objectives and key outcomes of the initiative

Dr Jeremy Sweet, Agricultural consultant – a user’s perspective

Professor Guy Poppy, University of Southampton - the science behind gene flow

To register for the media briefing please contact the BBSRC Media Office.


Notes to editors

The aim of the Gene Flow in Plants and Microorganisms Initiative was to provide a greater understanding of the biological events that control and influence the insertion of new genetic material into the genomes of plants and microorganisms and of the likelihood and consequences of the subsequent transfer of the inserted material to other organisms.

This initiative was intended to complement other research supported by BBSRC, NERC and other funding bodies by supporting research into the underlying mechanisms of basic biological processes.

The initiative followed an online consultation launched by BBSRC and NERC February 2000. The successful projects under the initiative were announced in November 2000.

BBSRC and NERC are two of the UK’s eight Research Councils


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

About NERC

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is one of the UK's eight Research Councils. It uses a budget of about £300 million a year to fund and carry out impartial scientific research in the sciences of the environment. NERC trains the next generation of independent environmental scientists. It specialises in earth system science, addressing some of the key questions facing mankind such as global warming, renewable energy and sustainable economic development.

External contact

Owen Gaffney, NERC Press Officer

tel: 01793 442629


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382