FAQ on inserted fragment of viral gene in GM plants

1. Certain media reports have claimed a paper published in the academic journal GM Crops and Food: Biotechnology in Agriculture and the Food Chain had discovered a previously unknown viral gene in commercial GM crops that may present a hazard to human health. Is this claim true?
2. What is the viral gene discussed in the paper?
3. Was EFSA aware of the existence of fragments of Gene VI in certain GM plants prior to the publication of this paper and have EFSA’s risk assessments of GMOs considered the potential effects of such fragments?
4. Is this paper an official EFSA scientific output?

 


 

1. Certain media reports have claimed a paper published in the academic journal GM Crops and Food: Biotechnology in Agriculture and the Food Chain had discovered a previously unknown viral gene in commercial GM crops that may present a hazard to human health. Is this claim true?

No, the data published in the paper ‘Possible Consequences of the overlap between the CaMV 35S promoter regions in the plant transformation vectors used in the viral gene VI in transgenic plants’ do not represent a new discovery of a viral gene nor do they indicate safety concerns in previously evaluated GMOs.

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2. What is the viral gene discussed in the paper?

The viral gene (Gene VI) belongs to a plant virus (Cauliflower Mosaic virus) that cannot infect animals or humans and therefore presents no threat to human or animal health. This virus naturally infects many plants with no recorded health effects.

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3. Was EFSA aware of the existence of fragments of Gene VI in certain GM plants prior to the publication of this paper and have EFSA’s risk assessments of GMOs considered the potential effects of such fragments?

Yes. All GM plant applications assessed by EFSA since its creation in 2002 that contain the inserted fragment of the viral gene in question have included a detailed analysis of the inserted sequence. These applications have also included the extensive data required by EFSA to assess the potential for unintended effects. In its assessment of these applications, no safety concerns were identified in relation to the sequence of the inserted fragment of the viral gene and the potential for unintended effects.

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4. Is this paper an official EFSA scientific output?

No, this is not an official EFSA output. It was authored by a former member of EFSA staff and the current Vice-Chair of the GMO Panel in an independent capacity. This paper has been known to EFSA’s GMO Panel from the outset; Members of the Panel’s Molecular Characterisation Working Group are acknowledged in the paper for the advice given to the authors as the research was being undertaken. In accordance with its Science Strategy, EFSA encourages its scientific staff to contribute to the scientific literature in their specific area of expertise.

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Last updated: 30 January 2013