HC Deb 06 November 2003 vol 412 c782W
Joan Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what published research involving humans he has assessed which examines the potential for horizontal gene transfer from GM bacteria to gut bacteria; how many people were involved in the experiments; what evidence of gene transfer was identified; and what research he has commissioned on this subject. [136064]

Miss Melanie Johnson

[holding answer 4 November 2003]: The Department of Health has not commissioned any research that looks at horizontal gene transfer from genetically modified (GM) bacteria to gut bacteria. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) however has published research on the use of human volunteers to examine the potential for horizontal gene transfer from GM food to gut bacteria. Seven people were involved in the study. No intact DNA was shown to be transferred to intestinal tract bacteria. The current state of knowledge regarding gene transfer was reviewed in the GM science review. This concluded that "transgenic DNA is no different from other DNA consumed as part of the normal diet and it will have a similar fate". The science review is available in the Library.

Applications to use oral GM bacteria are assessed on a case by case basis by either the Health and Safety Executive (under the Contained Use Regulations), or by the Department for Environment. Food and Rural Affairs Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (under the Deliberate Release Regulations). Each application involving the use of GM bacteria is comprehensively evaluated with regard to safety, including gene transfer.