Dr Michael Antoniou is a Senior Lecturer in molecular genetics at a London teaching hospital.
Updated comments on The Newcastle Feeding Trial by Dr Michael Antoniou
Prior to the Newcastle Feeding Trial it was believed that GM DNA would be unlikely to survive food processing/cooking and any surviving DNA would be broken down in the acidic environment of the stomach. Indeed if any DNA did manage to get through to the small intestine then it would be fragmented and its chance of transfer to gut bacteria would also be very small. This position is reflected in the approval in 1997 by the ACNFP (under Prof Derek Burk) of "Maximiser" GM maize for processed food use but not as a raw animal feed since it was feared that antibiotic resistance genes could be transferred to gut bacteria thereby compromising future medical treatment.
However, trial DATA from the Newcastle trial clearly show that measurable amounts of the full length transgene survived in the gut demonstrating that food processing and the acidic environment of the stomach were not able to completely destroy food DNA. Additionally the experiment on the digesta samples confirmed that full length and active epsps genes had transferred to gut bacteria. It should be noted that those taking part were fed only ONE meal consisting of a deep fried soya burger and a milk shake which as a result fails to address possible cumulative effects of antibiotic resistance gene building up in gut bacteria or the effect on the digestive tract of the release of other GM products (e.g Bt toxin) [Note: the CaMV promoter which drives expression of the GM genes is known to be highly active in bacterial hosts. Therefore, if transferred intact to gut bacteria, as has been shown to be possible by the Newcastle study, CaMV-GM genes will function efficiently and release their products into the gut with still unknown immunological and other health consequences].
Additionally no simulations of conditions that compromise normal digestion (e.g. diarrhoea) were tested to determine if GM Antibiotic Resistant Marker gene-containing bacteria could then be released into the environment.
23 September 2003
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