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I am usually pretty skeptical about claims on the danger of genetically modified crops because the issue of health for me logically breaks down to: Do the genes altered produce toxic chemicals in a dosage that would cause issues for human health? However, an article I read claims that there are GM crops that have double-stranded RNA molecules (the article is not clear how the new RNA is introduced to the crop, presumably the DNA is altered to produce it), and that these "dsRNA"s have been shown to alter gene expression in mice. Is this a legitimate issue to human health? I had always assumed that genetic materials like DNA are broken down into the constituent nucleosides and sugars making up DNA during the human digestion process, and that the process should be similar for any other kind of genetic material, including dsRNA.

  • I took a quick look at the article, but really, answering this question will be very difficult. For the simple reason that even the article goes out of its way to proclaim that there were no experiments done, ("If there are no experiments, we won’t know if double-stranded RNAs have an adverse impact or no impact."). However, I would agree with Jason Walker: Normally, ingested DNA/RNA does not survive the digestive track. This should hold for double stranded or single stranded RNA. (In fact: I really can't quite see what the big deal about two strands of RNA instead of one should be). – Mark Anderson May 25 '14 at 6:14
  • @MarkAnderson Double-stranded RNA can induce RNAi mechanisms that downregulate gene expression. – Mad Scientist May 25 '14 at 12:36
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    I’d be wary of an article that gets its biology wrong in the very first paragraph: “Most genetically modified (GM) crops are based on moving DNA from one organism to another to introduce a new protein. Now a growing number of genetically modified crops are based on intentionally changing RNA.” – That’s of course nonsense, in all cases the DNA is changed, and in all cases the RNA is affected. The only difference is that some newer modifications don’t code for proteins but rather for smaller fragments which form double strands. What’s more, this is a staple defence of cells against viruses. – Konrad Rudolph May 27 '14 at 6:39
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    The article is written by Judy Carmen and her fellow luddites. If you are not familiar with Judy, she is the author of the much debunked pig GM feed research that was a statistical fishing trip to further her anti-GM agenda. She and the disgraced Seralini have a webpage devoted to their nonsense. If you read the comments below the article you will find rebuttals from actual genetics experts like David Tribe, Richard Rousch, and I also made a few comments. – Tim Scanlon May 28 '14 at 1:14
  • So, asking whether ingesting RNA viruses such as retroviruses can cause human disease is inside the scope of your question? – HappySpoon Jun 4 '14 at 7:28

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