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Document type
  • Peer-reviewed journal article
GE trait
  • multiple
  • New Zealand


  • no effect

Genetic engineering of crops as potential source of genetic hazard in the human diet Review Article

Conner, AJ; Jacobs, JME
Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis. 1999 July. 443(2-Jan):223–234

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DOI: 10.1016/S1383-5742(99)00020-4


The benefits of genetic engineering of crop plants to improve the reliability and quality of the world food supply have been contrasted with public concerns raised about the food safety of the resulting products. Debates have concentrated on the possible unforeseen risks associated with the accumulation of new metabolites in crop plants that may contribute to toxins, allergens and genetic hazards in the human diet. This review examines the various molecular and biochemical mechanisms by which new hazards may appear in foods as a direct consequence of genetic engineering in crop plants. Such hazards may arise from the expression products of the inserted genes, secondary or pleiotropic effects of transgene expression, and random insertional mutagenic effects resulting from transgene integration into plant genomes. However, when traditional plant breeding is evaluated in the same context, these mechanisms are no different from those that have been widely accepted from the past use of new cultivars in agriculture. The risks associated with the introduction of new genes via genetic engineering must be considered alongside the common breeding practice of introgressing large fragments of chromatin from related wild species into crop cultivars. The large proportion of such introgressed DNA involves genes of unknown function linked to the trait of interest such as pest or disease resistance. In this context, the potential risks of introducing new food hazards from the applications of genetic engineering are no different from the risks that might be anticipated from genetic manipulation of crops via traditional breeding. In many respects, the precise manner in which genetic engineering can control the nature and expression of the transferred DNA offers greater confidence for producing the desired outcome compared with traditional breeding.


Plant breeding; Food safety; Genetic engineering; Transgenic crop; Transgenic food


Funding source
  • New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology
Funding country
  • New Zealand
Funding type
  • government

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Cite this study


Conner, AJ, JME Jacobs. "Genetic engineering of crops as potential source of genetic hazard in the human diet." Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis 443.2-Jan (1999): 223–234. Web. 22 Jun. 2024.


Conner, AJ., & Jacobs, JME. (1999). Genetic engineering of crops as potential source of genetic hazard in the human diet. Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, 443(2-Jan), 223–234. doi:10.1016/S1383-5742(99)00020-4

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