Health Threats from Antibiotic-resistance
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- Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 11:33:14 +0200
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This from the BBC today-the Sunday Times yesterday carried a similar article.
Meningitis fear over GM food
Genetically modified food could pose a health risk
Genetically modified food could make dangerous diseases such as meningitis more difficult to treat, a government scientific advisor has warned.
Experts on the government's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes are concerned about plants being grown in the USA and parts of Europe that contain a gene resistant to antibiotics.
They fear the resistance could be spread widely throughout the environment, and that it could be picked up by bacteria that cause serious disease.
Microbiologist Dr John Heritage, a member of the committee, has written to the American authorities to express his concern.
Dr Heritage told the BBC said the risk posed by antibiotic resistant foods was small.
But he said: "We are talking about diseases that may be life threatening, like meningitis.
"Were these genes to get into bacteria from genetically modified plants it would make cases of disease more difficult to treat."
Dr Heritage said antibiotic resistant genes were used by biotechnology companies because they enable scientists to move other genes around to erradicate weaknesses and enhance the positive qualities of the food.
He said the risk of spreading antibiotic resistance occured when cells were broken open during the processing of the food, releasing the modified DNA into the environment.
The risk was magnified when processing created dust, Dr Heritage said, because the dust would be breathed in.
"This is where the meningitis worry comes because a significant minority of the population carry the bacteria that cause meningitis," he said.
"That family of bacteria are very adept at taking up DNA from the environment and expressing it."
Policy Advisor-Genetic Engineering
Green Group in the European Parliament
Tel +32 2 284 2026
Fax +32 2 284 2026