QI heard that there is spider/animal DNA in tomatoes, is this true?

I heard that there is spider/animal DNA in tomatoes, is this true?

AExpert Answer

It is not true. There’s a lot of misinformation about GM crops on the Internet―including the idea that there are animal genes in tomatoes. While there have been laboratory experiments where a gene was introduced that was based on a gene from an animal (the one folks may be most familiar with is a flounder gene in tomatoes to see if it would make them more cold tolerant), none of our companies has commercial GM crops on the market that are genetically modified to contain animal genes. With regard to GM tomatoes, there are not currently any commercial products on the market.


It should be noted, though, that plant scientists who study the genomes of plants have estimated that about 60 percent of the genes present in plants have very similar copies in animals. This is not surprising, since all organisms use the same genetic toolbox. DNA from any source is made up of the same four basic nucleotide building blocks: adenine (A), cytosine (C), thymine (T) and guanine (G). So DNA that comes from a plant or a microbe has the same four nucleotides as the DNA in animals. When any DNA is ingested, it is broken down into these nucleotides, which are further broken down and absorbed or excreted. 


You may want to read more detailed articles that provide more in-depth information related to your question:

Posted on January 31, 2018
Thank you for your question. There are various aspects of your question. I assume your question refers to the use of Agrobacterium rhizogenes by scientists to intentionally transfer genes from the bacterium to plants. Infection and DNA transfer from this bacterium occurs in nature all the time to cause disease. Such transformed plants are not classified as GMOs since transfer occurred naturally. If this is done by scientists then it would be classified as a GMO. Rules and... Read More
Posted on March 1, 2018
I’m a Monsanto scientist who has more than 20 years of experience with genetic modification of plants. I will try to answer your question, even though I don’t ever do experiments on animals, certainly not on humans, of course! Can humans be genetically modified…but a much bigger question is should humans be genetically modified? There are two ways to think about genetic modification of humans (or any animal). One way is modification of somatic cells, and the other is the... Read More
Posted on May 10, 2017
The simple answer is that 20+ years of composition assessments of GMO crops have demonstrated that crop composition is not appreciably affected by the GM process (1). In addition, data collected through that time have indicated that general factors such as the growth environment can contribute to notable variation in component levels (2). Plant agglutinins (or lectins) and amylase inhibitors are examples of anti-nutritional compounds that may be present in crops. The relevance of such a... Read More