Cisgenesis is a product designation for a category of genetically engineered plants. A variety of classification schemes have been proposed[1] that order genetically modified organisms based on the nature of introduced genotypical changes, rather than the process of genetic engineering.

Potatoes after treatment with Phytophthora infestans. The normal potatoes have blight but the cisgenic potatoes are healthy

Cisgenesis (etymology: cis = same side; and genesis = origin) is one term for organisms that have been engineered using a process in which genes are artificially transferred between organisms that could otherwise be conventionally bred.[2][3] Genes are only transferred between closely related organisms.[4] Nucleic acid sequences must be isolated and introduced using the same technologies that are used to produce transgenic organisms, making cisgenesis similar in nature to transgenesis. The term was first introduced in 2000 by Henk J. Schouten and Henk Jochemsen,[5] and in 2004 a PhD thesis by Jan Schaart of Wageningen University in 2004, discussing making strawberries less susceptible to Botrytis cinerea.

In Europe, currently, this process is governed by the same laws as transgenesis. While researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands feel that this should be changed and regulated in the same way as conventionally bred plants, other scientists, writing in Nature Biotechnology, have disagreed.[3] In 2012 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a report with their risk assessment of cisgenic and intragenic plants. They compared the hazards associated with plants produced by cisgenesis and intragenesis with those obtained either by conventional plant breeding techniques or transgenesis. The EFSA concluded that "similar hazards can be associated with cisgenic and conventionally bred plants, while novel hazards can be associated with intragenic and transgenic plants."[6]

Cisgenesis has been applied to transfer of natural resistance genes to the devastating disease Phytophthora infestans in potato[7] and scab (Venturia inaequalis) in apple.[8][9]

Cisgenesis and transgenesis use artificial gene transfer, which results in less extensive change to an organism's genome than mutagenesis, which was widely used before genetic engineering was developed.[10]

Some people believe that cisgenesis should not face as much regulatory oversight as genetic modification created through transgenesis as it is possible, if not practical, to transfer alleles among closely related species even by traditional crossing. The primary biological advantage of cisgenesis is that it does not disrupt favorable heterozygous states, particularly in asexually propagated crops such as potato, which do not breed true to seed. One application of cisgenesis is to create blight resistant potato plants by transferring known resistance loci wild genotypes into modern, high yielding varieties.[11]

The Dutch government has proposed to exclude cisgenic plants from the European GMO Regulation, in view of the safety of cisgenic plants compared to classically bred plants, and their contribution to durable food production.[12]

Related classification schemeEdit

A related classification scheme proposed by Kaare Nielsen is:[1]

Source of genetic modification Genetic variability via conventional breeding Genetic distance
Intragenic Within genome Possible Low
Famigenic Species in the same family Possible
Linegenic Species in the same lineage Impossible
Transgenic Unrelated species Impossible
Xenogenic Laboratory-designed genes Impossible High


A diagram comparing the genetic changes achieved through conventional plant breeding, transgenesis and cisgenesis



  1. ^ a b Nielsen, K. M. (2003). "Transgenic organisms—time for conceptual diversification?". Nature Biotechnology. 21 (3): 227–228. doi:10.1038/nbt0303-227. PMID 12610561.
  2. ^ Cisgenesis definitions
  3. ^ a b Schubert, D.; Williams, D. (2006). "'Cisgenic' as a product designation". Nature Biotechnology. 24 (11): 1327–9. doi:10.1038/nbt1106-1327. PMID 17093469.
  4. ^ MacKenzie D (2 August 2008). "How the humble potato could feed the world". New Scientist (2667): 30–33.
  5. ^ Jochemsen H, ed. (2000). Toetsen en begrenzen: een ethische en politieke beoordeling van de moderne biotechnologie. ISBN 978-9072016324.
  6. ^ "Scientific opinion addressing the safety assessment of plants developed through cisgenesis and intragenesis". EFSA Journal. 10 (2): 2561. 2012. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2561.
  7. ^ Park T-H; Vleeshouwers VGAA; Jacobsen E; et al. (2009). "Molecular breeding for resistance to Phytophthora infestans (Mont.) de Bary in potato (Solanum tuberosum L.): a perspective of cisgenesis". Plant Breeding. 128 (2): 109–117. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0523.2008.01619.x.
  8. ^ Vanblaere T, Flachowsky H, Gessler C, Broggini GA (January 2014). "Molecular characterization of cisgenic lines of apple 'Gala' carrying the Rvi6 scab resistance gene". Plant Biotechnol. J. 12 (1): 2–9. doi:10.1111/pbi.12110. PMID 23998808.
  9. ^ Joshi SG, Schaart JG, Groenwold R, Jacobsen E, Schouten HJ, Krens FA (April 2011). "Functional analysis and expression profiling of HcrVf1 and HcrVf2 for development of scab resistant cisgenic and intragenic apples". Plant Mol. Biol. 75 (6): 579–91. doi:10.1007/s11103-011-9749-1. PMC 3057008. PMID 21293908.
  10. ^ Schouten, H.; Krens, F.; Jacobsen, E. (2006). "Do cisgenic plants warrant less stringent oversight?". Nature Biotechnology. 24 (7): 753. doi:10.1038/nbt0706-753. PMID 16841052.
  11. ^ Jacobsen, E.; Schouten, H. J. (2008). "Cisgenesis, a New Tool for Traditional Plant Breeding, Should be Exempted from the Regulation on Genetically Modified Organisms in a Step by Step Approach". Potato Research. 51: 75–88. doi:10.1007/s11540-008-9097-y. Free version Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Brief aan Eurocommissaris d.d. 18 december 2013 over Nieuwe veredelingstechnieken in de biotechnologie" [Letter to Commissioner dated December 18, 2013 on new breeding techniques in biotechnology] (in Dutch). 2014-01-06.