A series of research projects from the UK Food Standards Agency have concluded that "it is extremely unlikely that genes from genetically modified (GM) food can end up in bacteria in the gut of people who eat them," the FSA said in a statement.
According to a recent report, the FSA's independent advisers on genetically modified foods had expressed concern about the presence of a particular gene (an antibiotic resistance marker) in GM maize approved for consumption by the European Community. This led the Agency to commission five related research projects to investigate the transfer and survival of DNA - the fundamental genetic material of all living things - in the bacteria of the human gut.
The most recently completed study - which will be published in a scientific journal later this year - shows that in real-life conditions with human volunteers, no GM material survived the passage through the entire human digestive tract. Although some DNA survived in laboratory-created environments that simulated human or animal gastrointestinal tracts, the research concluded that the likelihood of functioning DNA being taken up by bacteria in the human or animal gut is extremely low.
Much of the work from the first four research projects has already been published in respected scientific journals, the FSA claims.
The news will fuel the already heated debate about the potential dangers that GM foods could have on our health - a debate recently exacerbated when the European Parliament passed a Commission proposal to tighten the labelling of GM foods in Europe.