Comparative safety testing of genetically modified foods in a 90-day rat feeding study design allowing the distinction between primary and secondary effects of the new genetic event

Ib Knudsen, Morten Poulsen

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This article discusses the wider experiences regarding the usefulness of the 90-day rat feeding study for the testing of whole foods from genetically modified (GM) plant based on data from a recent EU-project [Poulsen, M., Schroder, M., Wilcks, A., Kroghsbo, S., Lindecrona, R.H., Miller, A., Frenzel, T., Danier, J., Rychlik, M., Shu, Q., Emami, K., Taylor, M., Gatehouse, A., Engel, K.-H., Knudsen, I., 2007a. Safety testing of GM-rice expressing PHA-E lectin using a new animal test design. Food Chem. Toxicol. 45, 364-377; Poulsen, M., Kroghsbo, S., Schroder, M., Wilcks, A., Jacobsen, H., Miller, A., Frenzel, T., Danier, J., Rychlik, M., Shu, Q., Emami, K., Sudhakar, D., Gatehouse, A., Engel, K.-H., Knudsen, I., 2007b. A 90-day safety in Wistar rats fed genetically modified rice expressing snowdrop lectin Galanthus nivalis (GNA). Food Chem. Toxicol. 45, 350-363; Schroder, M., Poulsen, M., Wilcks, A., Kroghsbo, S., Miller, A., Frenzel, T., Danier, J., Rychlik, M., Emarni, K., Gatehouse, A., Shu, Q., Engel, K.-H., Knudsen, I., 2007. A 90-day safety study of genetically modified rice expressing CrylAb protein (Bacillus thuringiensis toxin) in Wistar rats. Food Chem. Toxicol. 45, 339-349]. The overall objective of the project has been to develop and validate the scientific methodology necessary for assessing the safety of foods from genetically modified plants in accordance with the present EU regulation. The safety assessment in the project is combining the results of the 90-day rat feeding study on the GM food with and without spiking with the pure novel gene product, with the knowledge about the identity of the genetic change, the compositional data of the GM food, the results from in-vitro/ex-vivo studies as well as the results from the preceding 28-day toxicity study with the novel gene product, before the hazard characterisation is concluded. The results demonstrated the ability of the 90-day rat feeding study to detect the biological/toxicological effects of the new gene product in the GM food. The authors consider on this basis that the 90-day, rodent feeding study with one high dose level and a dietary design based upon compositional data on the GM food and toxicity data on the gene product is sensitive and specific enough to verify the presence/absence of the biological/nutritional/toxicological effects of the novel gene insert and further by the use of spiking able to separate potentially unintended effects of the novel gene product from other unintended effects at the level of intake defined in the test and within the remit of the test. Recommendations for further work necessary in the field are given.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRegulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)53-62
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • hazard characterisation
  • spiking
  • genetically modified foods
  • comparative safety
  • procedure
  • pre-market assessment
  • 90-day rodent feeding study

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