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Safety Assessment of Transgenic Organisms, Volume 4

OECD Consensus Documents

image of Safety Assessment of Transgenic Organisms, Volume 4

The books on “Safety Assessment of Transgenic Organisms” constitute a compilation of the OECD Biosafety Consensus Documents. When published, Volume 1 and 2 contained the documents issued before 2006; Volume 3 and 4 are a continuation of the compilation up to 2010.

The OECD Biosafety Consensus Documents identify elements of scientific information used in the environmental safety and risk assessment of transgenic organisms which are common to OECD member countries and some non members associated with the work. This is intended to encourage information sharing, promote harmonised practices, and prevent duplication of effort among countries.

These books offer ready access to those consensus documents which have been issued on the website thus far. As such, it should be of value to applicants for commercial uses of transgenic organisms (crops, trees, microorganisms), to regulators and risk assessors in national authorities, as well as the wider scientific community.

More information on the OECD's work related to the biosafety of transgenic organisms is found at BioTrack Online (http://www.oecd.org/biotrack).

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Section 4 - Guidance document on horizontal gene transfer between bacteria

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) 1 refers to the stable transfer of genetic material from one organism to another without reproduction. The significance of horizontal gene transfer was first recognised when evidence was found for ‘infectious heredity’ of multiple antibiotic resistance to pathogens (Watanabe, 1963). The assumed importance of HGT has changed several times (Doolittle et al., 2003) but there is general agreement now that HGT is a major, if not the dominant, force in bacterial evolution. Massive gene exchanges in completely sequenced genomes were discovered by deviant composition, anomalous phylogenetic distribution, great similarity of genes from distantly related species, and incongruent phylogenetic trees (Ochman et al., 2000; Koonin et al., 2001; Jain et al., 2002; Doolittle et al., 2003; Kurland et al., 2003; Philippe and Douady, 2003). There is also much evidence now for HGT by mobile genetic elements (MGEs) being an ongoing process that plays a primary role in the ecological adaptation of prokaryotes. Well documented is the example of the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes by HGT that allowed bacterial populations to rapidly adapt to a strong selective pressure by agronomically and medically used antibiotics (Tschäpe, 1994; Witte, 1998; Mazel and Davies, 1999). MGEs shape bacterial genomes, promote intra-species variability and distribute genes between distantly related bacterial genera.

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