New Research Questions GM Food Safety

July 17, 2002

New evidence from British scientists has been published which raises serious questions about the safety of GM food.

The research, published by the UK's Food Standards Agency, showed for the first time that genes inserted in GM crops are finding their way into human gut bacteria. Many GM crops have antibiotic-resistant marker genes inserted in them, and there are fears that if material from these marker genes passes into humans, people's ability to fight infections may be reduced.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle gave human volunteers a single meal containing GM soya. Three of the seven people studied were found to have bacteria in their intestines containing a gene from the GM soya. However, researchers suggested that the presence of bacteria containing GM material could have "reflected previous exposure" to GM food already in our diet.

Adrian Bebb, GM food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said:

"This research should set alarm bells ringing. Industry scientists and Government advisors have always played down the risk of this ever happening, but the very first time when scientists looked for it they found it."

Given the new research results, Friends of the Earth will press for the immediate withdrawel of GM food containing antibiotic-resistant markers from the market. Further research must be commissioned as a matter of urgency.

For more information contact:

Adrian Bebb (in London)
Ph: + 44-(0) 7712 843 211

Pete Riley
Ph: + 44-(0) 7712 843 210

Press Office
Ph: + 44-(0)20 7566 1649

Notes to editors

The research was commissioned by the UK Government, and published by the Food Standards Agency, as part of a project entitled "Evaluating the risks associated with using GMOs in human foods." See -

The researchers used seven volunteers all of whom had an ileostomy (they'd had their lower bowel removed and were using colostomy bags). They were fed a single meal consisting of a burger and a milkshake both of which contained GM soya. After the meal the contents of their colostomy bags were emptied every half an hour for the next 6 hours. Bacteria from these samples were cultured and for three of the seven human volunteers a herbicide resistance gene from the GM soya was detected in their intestinal bacteria.

The researchers also cultured bacteria from samples taken prior to the volunteers eating the GM meal. The herbicide resistance gene was also detected at low levels in these bacteria.

Twelve human volunteers with an intact gastrointestinal tract were fed the same GM meal. No GM material or bacteria containing herbicide resistance genes were detected in their faeces.