The beta-glucuronidase (GUS) gene is to date the most frequently used reporter gene in plants. Marketing of crops containing this gene requires prior evaluation of their biosafety. To aid such evaluations of the GUS gene, irrespective of the plant into which the gene has been introduced, the ecological and toxicological aspects of the gene and gene product have been examined. GUS activity is found in many bacterial species, is common in all tissues of vertebrates and is also present in organisms of various invertebrate taxa. The transgenic GUS originates from the enterobacterial species Escherichia coli that is widespread in the vertebrate intestine, and in soil and water ecosystems. Any GUS activity added to the ecosystem through genetically modified plants will be of no or minor influence. Selective advantages to genetically modified plants that posses and express the E. coli GUS transgene are unlikely. No increase of weediness of E. coli GUS expressing crop plants, or wild relatives that might have received the transgene through outcrossing, is expected. Since E. coli GUS naturally occurs ubiquitously in the digestive tract of consumers, its presence in food and feed from genetically modified plants is unlikely to cause any harm. E. coli GUS in genetically modified plants and their products can be regarded as safe for the environment and consumers.