Can RNA from a strain of genetically modified wheat silence human DNA? This recent question on GMO Answers, an industry-run website where anyone can ask a question regarding agricultural biotechnology, was answered by genetics and risk expert David Tribe.
The short answer is no, the RNA from the GM wheat, a variety developed by an Australian government-funded research institution, cannot affect human genes, primarily because when eaten, the RNA would not survive the human digestive tract. The wheat was genetically modified to produce large amounts of ‘invisible fiber,’ a “slowly digested natural variety of food starch that is present in many different plant goods,” Tribe writes. Furthermore, every food we eat–genetically modified, conventionally bred, or organic–contains RNA. The concern over RNA is a popular anti-GMO argument that has been recently renewed because of a highly contested study from China showing RNA from GM rice could enter into an animal’s body from the gut. The study has been propagated by anti-GMO figures like Jack Heinemann, a plant scientist at the University of Canterbury, Tribe writes. However, those claims have been refuted multiple times in the last six months by several different researchers.
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