- LONDON (Reuters) -- An artificial gut designed by Dutch researchers
has cast doubts on the safety of genetically modified food, New Scientist
magazine reported on Wednesday.
- The computer-controlled model of the
stomach and intestines, designed to mimic human food digestion, showed
that antibiotic-resistance genes introduced into food could jump to bacteria
in the gut.
- "The results show that DNA lingers
in the intestine, and confirms that genetically modified bacteria can transfer
their antibiotic-resistance genes to bacteria in the gut," according
to the magazine.
- One of the concerns about genetically
engineered crops is that antibiotic-resistant genes could transfer to animals
and humans and create superbugs that cannot be killed by even the strongest
- Some scientists claimed it could never
happen because the modified DNA breaks down so quickly. But the Dutch research
showed DNA from the bacteria had a half-life of six minutes in the large
- "This makes it available to transform
cells," said Robert Havenaar, the designer of the artificial gut.
- Hub Noteborn of the State Institute for
Quality Control of Agricultural Products in the Netherlands said the results
of the study contradict the safety assurances.
- "It was a surprise to see that DNA
persisted so long in the colon," he told the magazine.
- Not all bacteria transferred the resistance
genes to normal gut bacteria. A tomato engineered to resist rot caused
- Havenaar and his colleagues plan further
studies and are planning to ask the European Union for funding.
- Last week, a committee from Britain's
House of Lords (upper house) announced that the benefits of genetically
modified food outweighed the risks. They also concluded it was "extremely
unlikely" that genes from food could jump into gut bacteria.
- Environmental groups have urged the government
to ban all genetically modified food. Top British chefs on Tuesday put
their weight behind opposition to what some have nicknamed "Frankenstein's