Genetically Modified Organisms
Interactions with Population
Health and Safety
• Genetically modified organisms present an
unknown risk and may cause harm to both
plant and animal communities.
• Post WWII- Chemical Revolution
– Chemicals were being produced to help improve
quality of life
– Many of these chemicals turned out to have
extremely negative consequences in the following
• A 1998 study found that 2,250 of
chemicals produced in the greatest
volumes had no toxicity data.
Environmental Health Letter, 1998
We are now approaching
the GMO revolution!
Instead of waiting to see
what the negative effects to
populations are, we should
understand GMOs prior to
their distribution and use.
• To evaluate the currently identified risks
that GMOs may cause to human and soil
• Identify the risk that GMOs present to
human health by means of horizontal
transfer of transgenes.
• Evaluate if GMOs could be a risk to
humans with sever allergy problems.
• Recognize the current understanding of
the impacts of GMOs on soil
• Assessed peer reviewed journal articles
on the following areas:
– Human Health Risk (allergenic)
– Human Heath Risk (gene transfer)
– Soil and Associated Microbial Communities
Human Health Risk (Allergenic)
• The production of GMOs results in the
introduction of potentially allergenic
proteins into the food being modified.
• “Of particular interest is the ability of
proteins from GMO’s to elicit potentially
harmful immunologic responses, including
allergic hypersensitivity” (Dean, 2003)
Protein Digestibility Study on
GMO’s and Allergic Potential
• “Joint Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations/World Health
Organization Expert Consultation
Committee on Allergenicity of Foods
Derived from Biotechnology”
• Scientists tested the digestibility of the
specific proteins of the genetically
modified food for assessing allergic
What to take away from the Protein
• The “digestion stability alone should not be
used for defining an unknown protein as
an allergen. Available data suggest that
stability to digestion may not be a
universal, defining characteristic of food
allergens” (Bannon et. al, 2003).
CDC Report to FDA
• “CDC report to FDA: Investigation of
human illness associated with potential
exposure to Cry9c, an Investigation of
Human Health Effects Associated with
Potential Exposure to Genetically Modified
• Found no immediate health risks but
called for more research.
Conclusion on Allergic Potential
• The majority of the research found,
suggests no reason for immediate worry
about the allergic effects of GMO’s on
• All of the research does however call for
more studies to be done so that scientists
as well as consumers can be fully
confident that proteins in GMO’s will not
hold a higher allergic potential.
Risk to Human Health from Gene
• When creating GMOs they are often
crossed with bacterial strains
• When the GMO is consumed, this DNA
can get mixed with the DNA of microbes in
your digestive tract via Horizontal Transfer
Ketler et al. Study
• Used a FASTA (scientific protein
sequence alignment software) analysis
done on the European Bioinformatics
Institute website to evaluate potential risk
• The authors concluded that for each of the
genes that they evaluated the potential
horizontal transfer to microorganisms
would most likely not raise health
Risk to Soil and Associated
• There has been little research done in this
area although support for it is growing
• Posed for study:
– Interactions between
transgenic plants, plant residues,
and the soil.
– Horizontal Gene Transfer
– Manipulation of plant proteins
Risk Assessment of GMO plants
• Each transgenic plant is different and
excretes different proteins into different
• This makes quantifying risk problematic.
– Identify indicators
– Measurable response
– Comparable data necessary for analysis
Suggested Questions for Future
Assessments (based on present
• 1. What are the environmental conditions of the system into
which the GM crop is to be introduced, such as soil type,
pH, water retention, vegetation, and the surrounding
• 2. What is already known about the microbial community
present and its key functions in the soil system?
• 3. What is the nature and origin of the gene(s) introduced into
the plant and when and in which organ(s) of the plant?
• 4. Does the mode of action of the inserted genetic material act
in relation to a very specific organism of the system or
does it confer a more general property that may affect a
whole range of organisms?
• 5. What are the modes of exposure of soil-borne
microorganisms to the GM product or introduced DNA
and how long is this exposure?
• There is a urgent need for more research
to be done in this field