Proving GM food is OK to eat

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  • Published: Apr 7, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: MRI Spectroscopy / Atomic / NMR Knowledge Base / X-ray Spectrometry / Raman / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Infrared Spectroscopy / Chemometrics & Informatics / Base Peak / Proteomics

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While the agricultural industry continues to develop new plant breeds with better resistance to drought, flood, weeds or pests, public doubts remain regarding the safety of genetically modified crops and foods derived from them. Despite all claims to the contrary, no convincing ways have been found yet to persuade a large proportion of consumers that there is nothing dangerous about eating GM food.

A team of scientists in the US has now devised a novel way to compare GM crops and their unmodified equivalents which they think well help to answer the anti-GM food critics. Writing in The Plant Genome, they described how they used an LC/MS technique to reveal the different metabolites in conventional and transgenic tomatoes that were grown outdoors, supported by a new statistical analysis.

The FDA requires that developers of GM crops should compare a few selected nutritional compounds in case the nutritional quality of GM crops has been affected. However, the new approach is non-targeted, comparing as many metabolites as could be found. "We throw a net in the water and try to get as many fish as we can," said lead researcher Owen Hoekenga from Cornell University.

In this case, the abundances of a small number of metabolites were changed by genetic modification of the tomatoes, but they were mostly associated with ripening of the fruit, which was the purpose of this particular modification. In contrast, when the metabolome of the GM tomato was compared with those of a selection of non-GM tomatoes, all of the metabolites were judged to be within the normal ranges. So, no accidental biochemical changes were introduced by the genetic changes.

This approach could be extended to any type of GM food. "We've made something fundamentally useful that anyone can use and improve on," said Hoekenga. The team regard setting the normal range of metabolic variability is a valid way to compare GM and non-GM foods, which could be produced to support claims that GM food is safe.

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