Brussels, 18 July 2002
New research carried out by the University of Newcastle in the UK has shown that genetically modified (GM) genes can find their way into human gut bacteria, the first time that this has been proven.
The consequences could be far reaching, as many GM crops have marker genes inserted into them which make them resistant to common antibiotics. The new findings indicate that antibiotics could have little or reduced effect on humans who have consumed these GM products.
Response to the research was divided. While the body which commissioned the research, the UK food standards agency, emphasised that that 'the likelihood of functioning DNA being taken up by bacteria in the human or animal gut is extremely low', the environmental group Friends of the Earth described the results as 'dynamite'.
It also called for an immediate end to the use of marker genes in GM crops.
The research is the first trial of GM foods on human volunteers. It compared the results of two groups eating a GM meal, one group who all had colostomy bags and one group with complete stomachs. They found that a relatively large proportion of genetically modified DNA survived the passage through the small bowel of the colostomy bag group, but not in the other group. They also found that almost half the stool samples provided by the colostomy bag group showed that bacteria had taken up the herbicide resistant gene from GM food at very low levels.