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Risk of Gene Transfer from GM Crop Plants to Gut Bacteria

Institutions
Institute of Food Research, UK
Start date
1999
End date
2002
Objective
The aim of this research project was to further scientific knowledge of the risk of gene transfer from GM plants to gut bacteria.

This project looked for evidence of gene transfer from GM rice and maize to the bacteria within the human digestive system.

In one experiment the researchers used laboratory conditions to artificially increase the likelihood of gene transfer taking place.

In a separate experiment the same GM material was introduced into a laboratory model that simulated conditions in the lower gastrointestinal tract of the human gut.

Molecular understanding suggests that gene transfer is unlikely to occur from antibiotic resistant genes in GM plants to human gut bacteria. This research investigated the issue further.

More information

The researchers looked for any transfer of antibiotic resistance from GM plant material to the gut bacteria present in the model, thereby giving a more realistic representation of the conditions that DNA (including GM DNA) would encounter should it survive passage to the lower human gut.

Main Findings: No natural transfer of antibiotic resistance was detected. Gene transfer was only detected when laboratory-based techniques were applied to artificially increase the likelihood of it taking place. It is not possible for the human or animal gut to reproduce these conditions.

The researchers concluded that drug resistance is so well established in the gastrointestinal tract, that even if antibiotic resistance gene transfer took place from a GM plant it would not be significant.

Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the Food Standards Agency Research webpage.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project number
G01012
Categories
Antimicrobial Resistance
Bacterial Pathogens