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Health Hazards of GE Yeast in Breads & Beer
Show Need for Stringent Pre-Market Safety-Testing


Is Genetically Engineered Food Devoid of DNA Safe? (GE Yeast in Breads & Beer)

"Many yeast strains are being engineered to have a higher metabolism
and as a result, enhanced fermentation properties in processes such as
bread baking and beer production. However, an investigation of GE yeast
containing extra copies of genes involved in the metabolism of glucose,
found that they also accumulate a highly toxic and mutagenic substance
known as methylglyoxal. The authors of this study warn that careful
thought should be given to the nature and safety of metabolic products
when GE yeast are used in food-related fermentation processes especially
since current risk assessments based upon the principle of substantial
equivalence are unlikely to detect any harmful substances."

The inadequacy of substantial equivalence

"(This example) illustrates the fact that a product derived from a GE
organism (bacteria, yeast or plant), can be devoid of genetic material
but can still unexpectedly contain potentially harmful alterations to a
GE product, a novel toxin or elevated levels of a known hazardous
substance. The current systems for assessing the health risks of GE
foods do not appear to have fully taken into account this
unpredictability of genetic engineering technology. At present it is
only required that the amounts of a few known components (nutrients,
allergens and natural toxins) be measured in order for substantial
equivalence to be established. When viewed from a fundamental genetics
standpoint, the manner in which the principle of substantial equivalence
is being applied would appear to be conceptually flawed. Since genetic
engineering has the potential to unexpectedly produce novel toxins and
allergens, the assessment of only known constituents is insufficient.
This problem is further compounded by the fact that each analytical
technique that is used possesses it's own limitations. Unless one
fortuitously chose an analytical method that happened to detect a novel
compound in the GE food, it can quite easily be missed even if present
in abundance. As a result, since one cannot specifically test for an
unknown health hazard, it is clear that only by applying
pharmacological-type toxicity testing can the risks of GE foods be
adequately assessed. If a new drug is produced via genetically
engineered organisms then it must quite rightly go through pre-clinical
tests in animals to assess acute toxicity and, more importantly,
extensive clinical trials in human volunteers to not only determine
efficacy, but also to detect any unexpected effects of the product
including unknown toxins resulting from the production process. Given
that the same imprecise technology is used to produce GE foods in
general then surely the same rules should apply for both. Clearly a
double standards situation exists which needs rectifying.
Pharmacological toxicity testing is designed to assess adverse effects
of a product in a very general manner regardless of whether it is a
single substance or a complex mixture and can therefore equally be
applied to GE foods as well as drugs".

Ref: Genetic Pollution; Nutritional Therapy Today (1996);
Dr Michael Antoniou, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Pathology, London, UK

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