GM Genes May Jump Species Barrier

June 5, 2000

1 Min Read
GM Genes May Jump Species Barrier

BERLIN--A German zoologist has found that genes used to genetically modify crops can jump the species barrier and cause bacteria to mutate in insects. Hans Hinrich Kaatz, a professor at Jena University in Germany, conducted a four-year study (as yet unpublished) on an alien gene used to modify rapeseed (canola). The gene was found to contaminate bacteria in the guts of bees. The study indicates that various kinds of bacteria may be at risk of becoming contaminated by genes used in genetic engineering, particularly because GE crops use anti-biotic marker genes. The study further suggests that these novel genes may cause change to take place in the intestinal tracts of people and animals. If so, some scientists say, bacteria used in fighting disease, aiding digestion and other health functions may be compromised.

In the study, Kaatz released bees onto a group of genetically altered rape and later removed the pollen the bees gathered. He fed the pollen to young bees and found that some of the bees had taken up modified genes in the bacteria of their digestive tract.

The study adds fuel to the ongoing debate over genetically engineering. "The truth is that genetically engineered foods were rushed to market without adequate safety testing for their impact on health and the environment," said Craig Winters, executive director of the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods. "Now that there is growing evidence of potential problems from genetically engineered crops, the U.S. agencies should put a moratorium on the commercial planting of these crops until more research can be done to prove their safety." For more information, visit

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