Unintended effects and their detection in genetically modified crops

Food Chem Toxicol. 2004 Jul;42(7):1089-125. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2004.02.003.


The commercialisation of GM crops in Europe is practically non-existent at the present time. The European Commission has instigated changes to the regulatory process to address the concerns of consumers and member states and to pave the way for removing the current moratorium. With regard to the safety of GM crops and products, the current risk assessment process pays particular attention to potential adverse effects on human and animal health and the environment. This document deals with the concept of unintended effects in GM crops and products, i.e. effects that go beyond that of the original modification and that might impact primarily on health. The document first deals with the potential for unintended effects caused by the processes of transgene insertion (DNA rearrangements) and makes comparisons with genetic recombination events and DNA rearrangements in traditional breeding. The document then focuses on the potential value of evolving "profiling" or "omics" technologies as non-targeted, unbiased approaches, to detect unintended effects. These technologies include metabolomics (parallel analysis of a range of primary and secondary metabolites), proteomics (analysis of polypeptide complement) and transcriptomics (parallel analysis of gene expression). The technologies are described, together with their current limitations. Importantly, the significance of unintended effects on consumer health are discussed and conclusions and recommendations presented on the various approaches outlined.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Consumer Product Safety*
  • European Union
  • Food Analysis* / methods
  • Food Supply*
  • Food, Genetically Modified / adverse effects*
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment / methods*