GM Free Cymru

Effect of foreign DNA/RNA on the Human Immune System in regard to GM Plants

Werner Müller, with contributions from Anna Jaschok

Workshop presentation,
Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture Health impacts of GMOs: State of knowlegde and lack of knowledge
13 May 2008

For the full PDF of this article go to: gmos.html


There are two different forms of the immune system in humans. The innate and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system recognizes universal, evolutionary conserved patterns, so called pathogen associated patterns (PAMP) via pattern recognition receptors (PRR) and represents the “first line of defense”. DNA and RNA sequences are PAMPs which have immuno-modulatory functions. Many PRR belong to the Toll-like-receptor (TLR) family. Where TLR 3 recognizes double stranded RNA, TLR7 and TLR8 recognize single-stranded RNA and TLR9 is a receptor for CpG DNA. Besides there are TLR independent receptors which also recognize DNA and RNA. Genetically modified plants carry synthetic genes (DNA sequences) which do not occur in any living species. Scientists produce genetically modified plants but do not understand old and universal patterns of DNA sequences which are recognized by the immune system. Fragments of food DNA and fragments of synthetic sequences are not fully degraded during digestion but can be detected in the lymph system, the blood, and several organs like liver, spleen muscles. For food DNA from bacteria it was detected that the location of the food DNA coincided with the immunomodulatory activity of this bacterial food DNA. In this light the presence of fragments of synthetic DNA sequences from genetically modified plants in the blood, liver etc. is very likely to coincide with yet unknown immunomodulatory activity. As genetically modified plants contain synthetic DNA sequences which are new to the immune system the type of immunomodulatory activity might be quite different from those evolutionary evolved “natural food DNA sequences”. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was and is still very silent on this issue. So far immunomodulatory activity of synthetic DNA sequences from genetically modified plants have been excluded from the risk assessment. An exploratory focus (or a research program) is urgently needed to analyze the immunomodulatory activity of synthetic DNA sequences from genetically modified plants. The safety of genetically modified plants in respect to human health cannot be determined, unless these urgent questions have been clarified.

The opinions of groups or individuals subscribing to this list are not necessarily endorsed, nor do they necessarily reflect the policy of Friends of the Earth.