In January 2014, an international meeting sponsored by the International Life Sciences Institute/Health and Environmental Sciences Institute and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency titled “Genetic Basis of Unintended Effects in Modified Plants” was held in Ottawa, Canada, bringing together over 75 scientists from academia, government, and the agro-biotech industry. The objectives of the meeting were to explore current knowledge and identify areas requiring further study on unintended effects in plants and to discuss how this information can inform and improve genetically modified (GM) crop risk assessments. The meeting featured presentations on the molecular basis of plant genome variability in general, unintended changes at the molecular and phenotypic levels, and the development and use of hypothesis-driven evaluations of unintended effects in assessing conventional and GM crops. The development and role of emerging “omics” technologies in the assessment of unintended effects was also discussed. Several themes recurred in a number of talks; for example, a common observation was that no system for genetic modification, including conventional methods of plant breeding, is without unintended effects. Another common observation was that “unintended” does not necessarily mean “harmful”. This paper summarizes key points from the information presented at the meeting to provide readers with current viewpoints on these topics.