Addressing concerns over the fate of DNA derived from genetically modified food in the human body: A review

Food Chem Toxicol. 2019 Feb;124:423-430. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2018.12.030. Epub 2018 Dec 21.


Global commercialization of GM food and feed has stimulated much debate over the fate of GM food-derived DNA in the body of the consumer and as to whether it poses any health risks. We reviewed the fate of DNA derived from GM food in the human body. During mechanical/chemical processing, integrity of DNA is compromised. Food-DNA can survive harsh processing and digestive conditions with fragments up to a few hundred bp detectable in the gastrointestinal tract. Compelling evidence supported the presence of food (also GM food) derived DNA in the blood and tissues of human/animal. There is limited evidence of food-born DNA integrating into the genome of the consumer and of horizontal transfer of GM crop DNA into gut-bacteria. We find no evidence that transgenes in GM crop-derived foods have a greater propensity for uptake and integration than the host DNA of the plant-food. We found no evidence of plant-food DNA function/expression following transfer to either the gut-bacteria or somatic cells. Strong evidence suggested that plant-food-miRNAs can survive digestion, enter the body and affect gene expression patterns. We envisage that this multi-dimensional review will address questions regarding the fate of GM food-derived DNA and gene-regulatory-RNA in the human body.

Keywords: Experessability of DNA; GM food and feed; Gastro intestinal tract; Genetically modified; Integratability of DNA; Transgene integration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Plant / blood
  • DNA, Plant / genetics*
  • Food, Genetically Modified / adverse effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal / genetics*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Transfection
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • DNA, Plant
  • MicroRNAs