From "Risks from GMOs due to Horizontal Gene Transfer", by Paul Keese:

More recently, concerns have been raised that HGT from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could have adverse effects (Pontiroli et al., 2007). HGT of an introduced gene in a GMO may confer a novel trait in another organism, which could be a source of potential harm to the health of people or the environment. For example, the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to a pathogen has the potential to compromise human or animal therapy (Bennett et al., 2004), transfer of a viral gene to a non-homologous virus may result in an emerging disease (Falk and Bruening, 1994) or gene transfer to humans has been controversially proposed as a potential trigger for oncogenesis (Ho et al., 2000).

What is a "non-homologous virus"? A virus whose species is the same but the strain is different from the virus taken as the donor for the GMO? Or just any virus (including viruses from different species) whose DNA or RNA sequence is different from the GMO donor virus?

Excuse me if the question seems too simple.

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    $\begingroup$ It is not a standard term. What it means is unrelated viruses. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Sep 12 '15 at 8:43

It simply means a two dissimilar viruses. If you read the paper Falk and Bruening, they are worried that if you place a viral gene in a plant (here we call that the transgenic gene), then natural viruses may "mix" it's genes with the transgenic genes and create a superior virus. The thought is, you are speeding up the evolution of the virus by taking a beneficial gene from a non related (non homologous virus), something that would probably take a long time.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! And this wild\natural non-homologous virus could be of the same species with the donor virus, the difference being only that it lacks this 'beneficial' gene sequence that was introduced into the GM plant? $\endgroup$ – CopperKettle Sep 12 '15 at 10:23

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