Transfer of Genes:
There is no greater likelihood of gene transfer from a “GMO gene” than naturally occurring genes in the crop itself, in fact due to relative abundance; this is thousands of times less likely to occur. Genes are composed of deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA, a natural molecule in all living things that carries genetic information (i.e. the blueprint of life). We eat DNA in every meal, whether from cows in our hamburger, potatoes in our fries, or vegetables in our healthy salads. Importantly, the scientific literature indicates that DNA is readily digested after ingestion (CAST, 2006; Jennings et al., 2003), resulting in absorption of components that serve as building blocks in metabolism (e.g. nucleotides, A’s, C’s, T’s, and G’s- remember Watson and Crick), rather than transfer of DNA/genes to the blood or cells.
Recent studies have shown that gene transfer between species has been observed and this occurrence and is a natural process. Here is a recent example:
• The Sweet Potato, a natural GMO was the subject of a recent scientific paper identifying that thousands of years ago, a bacteria inserted “new” genes into the crop. This caused the sweet potato variety to be selected by humans to cultivate for food due to preference over its wild relatives. To read more, here is a blog on Biofortified.org and a link to the publication.
For additional information (some more technical) check out these responses:
Genetic modification of animals is relatively simple from a molecular biology standpoint and GM animals are very common, however they are not currently in the food supply. The AquAdvantage® salmon is a genetically modified for growth efficiency and has received a lot of publicity and here are 9 things to know about GMO Salmon.
I worked in a laboratory in which there were a dozen transgenic mouse models. These were mostly knockout mouse models with a gene missing, created for the purpose of evaluating the role of specific genes on the biological response to chemicals. Some research also uses mice with a human version of a gene inserted into a knockout mouse to model the human response to chemicals. There are hundreds of strains of GM laboratory animals and these create a powerful way to better understand basic biology and diseases. There are even GM pets. Glo-fish are the offspring of GM fish that were originally designed to detect water pollution.
Your question about labeling is appreciated because it allows us to update our response to this question that been frequently posted to GMO Answers. We support the right of food companies to voluntarily label products to reflect different production practices. There was a new Federal biotech disclosure law passed in July that will result in changes in the retail GMO labeling. For additional information on this law, please visit the Grocery Manufacturing Association website, SmartLabeltm or food retailers of interest to review their position on labeling.