The relevance of gene transfer to the safety of food and feed derived from genetically modified (GM) plants

G van den Eede, H J Aarts, H J Buhk, G Corthier, Harry James Flint, W Hammes, B Jacobsen, T Midtvedt, J van der Vossen, Atte von Wright, W Wackernagel, A Wilcks

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114 Citations (Scopus)


In 2000, the thematic network ENTRANSFOOD was launched to assess four different topics that are all related to the testing or assessment of food containing or produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Each of the topics was linked to a European Commission (EC)-funded large shared cost action (see Since the exchange of genetic information through horizontal (lateral) gene transfer (HGT) might play a more important role, in quantity and quality, than hitherto imagined, a working group dealing with HGT in the context of food and feed safety was established. This working group was linked to the GMOBILITY project (GMOBILITY, 2003) and the results of the deliberations are laid down in this review paper. HGT is reviewed in relation to the potential risks of consuming food or feed derived from transgenic crops. First, the mechanisms for obtaining transgenic crops are described. Next, HGT mechanisms and its possible evolutionary role are described. The use of marker genes is presented in detail as a special case for genes that may pose a risk. Furthermore, the exposure to GMOs and in particular to genetically modified (GM) deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is discussed as part of the total risk assessment. The review finishes off with a number of conclusions related to GM food and feed safety. The aim of this paper is to provide a comprehensive overview to assist risk assessors as well as regulators and the general public in understanding the safety issues related to these mechanisms. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1127-1156
Number of pages30
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004
EventConference of the European Network on Safety Assessment of Genetically Modified Food Crops - Rome, Italy
Duration: 29 May 200330 May 2003


  • aantibiotic resistance
  • marker genes
  • marker gene removal
  • biosafety
  • transformation
  • conjugation
  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens
  • risk assessment
  • safety assessment
  • DNA degradation
  • DNA integration
  • horizontal gene transfer
  • marker rescue
  • GMO
  • gene transfer
  • DNA stability
  • transgenic crop plants
  • recombinant DNA
  • dietary intake
  • food safety
  • intestinal microflora
  • antibiotic resistance markers
  • DNA in food
  • DNA in feed
  • Agrobacterium-mediated transformation
  • polymerase chain reaction
  • facilitated illegitimate recombination
  • high-velocity microprojectiles
  • crown-gall tumorigenesis
  • gram-negative bacteria
  • free transgenic plants
  • coated gold particles
  • human fecal flora
  • Escherichia coli


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