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The Guardian ran an article a while back talking about GM gene's jumping to bacteria in an eater's intestine. Has other research confirmed this phenomenon?

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It is intestine, not stomach. Also, I love how the article says that because it can happen in certain conditions for bacteria that live in bees guts "The research - which has yet to be published and has not been reviewed by fellow scientists - is highly significant because it suggests that all types of bacteria could become contaminated by genes used in genetically modified technology, including those that live inside the human digestive system.". Talk about hurried conclusions. – nico Feb 23 '12 at 6:18
Isn't the phrase "genetically modified genes" kind of tautology? – Marta Cz-C Feb 23 '12 at 9:17
I just want to point out that the Guardian article you refer was published in 2000. 12 years later, these putative results have not been published yet. – Gianpaolo R Feb 23 '12 at 10:05
@MartaCz-C: I guess it was intended to be GMO's genes – nico Feb 23 '12 at 19:07
up vote 10 down vote accepted


There is nothing special about a piece of GM DNA when compared to any other random piece of DNA. If this phenomenon happened at any detectable level, we'd have found eukaryotic DNA in bacterial genomes/plasmids long before the introduction of genetically modified crops. And that would be front page news in the field of horizontal gene transfer! Which has many talented people in it!

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Do you have any references to back that up? – Casebash Feb 23 '12 at 8:51
A basic molecular biology textbook plus one in microbiology would be sufficient to provide the details of the mechanisms described by Amy +1. – Larry_Parnell Feb 23 '12 at 14:02
@Casebash You're asking me to prove a negative. I think the onus would be on you to provide evidence otherwise. For what it's worth, the wiki entry on horizontal gene transfer gives a pretty good overview of the mechanisms we know about: – Amy Feb 23 '12 at 17:01
Also, this textbook chapter: – Amy Feb 23 '12 at 17:22

Of far greater concern is the transfer of genetic material between bacteria in which antibiotic resistance is conferred. The firmicutes in your poop is not at all the same genetically speaking as the firmicutes in my poop. Polymorphisms and genetic transfer have changed members of the gut microbiome and that leads to differential extraction of energy from the ingested food and differential behavior with respect to antibiotics.

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Apparently transfer between prokaryote and eukaryote (in both directions) has been detected:

Some numbers I'd like to know are the rate of pro<->eu HGT detection /versus the rate of looking for it/ (i.e. 3 confirmations in 300 attempts would be more impressive than 3 confirmations in 30,000 attempts).

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Hi and welcome to biology SE. Please use the buttons above the editor window to insert links and it is better to include the title, authors and journal of your cited articles. That said, I have downvoted your answer because i) you link to 3 articles showing HTC between virii and eukaryotes (even if one of them seems to think that the Hz-1 virus is a prokaryote!) and ii) the existence of HTC between eu- and prokaryotes does not answer whether it would be possible for such a transfer to occur in the very hostile environment of a mammalian gut. In short, you're not answering the question :). – terdon Nov 5 '12 at 3:02

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