Genetically modified plants expressing insecticidal traits offer a new strategy for crop protection, but at the same time present a challenge in terms of food safety assessment. The present 90-day feeding study was designed to assess the safety of a rice variety expressing the snowdrop Galanthus nivalis lectin (GNA lectin), and forms part of a EU-funded project where the objective has been to develop and validate sensitive and specific methods to assess the safety of genetically modified foods. Mate and female Wistar rats were given a purified diet containing either 60% genetically modified or parental rice for 90 days. This corresponds to a mean daily GNA lectin intake of approximately 58 and 67 mg/kg body weight for males and females, respectively. Prior to the animal study comprehensive analytical characterization of both rice materials was performed. The chemical analyses showed a number of statistically significant differences, with the majority being within the ranges reported in the literature. In the animal study a range of clinical, biological, immunological, microbiological and pathological parameters were examined. A number of significant differences were seen between groups fed the two diets, but none of them were considered to be adverse. In conclusion, the design of the present animal study did not enable us to conclude on the safety of the GM food. Additional group(s) where the expressed gene products have been spiked to the diet should be included in order to be able to distinguish whether the observed effects were due to the GNA lectin per se or to secondary changes in the GM rice.
Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2007, Vol 45, Issue 3, p. 350-363