Safety assessment of food and feed from biotechnology-derived crops employing RNA-mediated gene regulation to achieve desired traits: A scientific review

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Abstract or Summary

Gene expression can be modulated in plants to produce desired traits through agricultural biotechnology. Currently, biotechnology-derived crops are compared to their conventional counterparts, with safety assessments conducted on the genetic modification and the intended and unintended differences. This review proposes that this comparative safety assessment paradigm is appropriate for plants modified to express mediators of RNA-mediated gene regulation, including RNA interference (RNAi), a gene suppression mechanism that naturally occurs in plants and animals. The molecular mediators of RNAi, including long double-stranded RNAs (dsRNA), small interfering RNAs (siRNA), and microRNAs (miRNA), occur naturally in foods; therefore, there is an extensive history of safe consumption. Systemic exposure following consumption of plants containing dsRNAs that mediate RNAi is limited in higher organisms by extensive degradation of ingested nucleic acids and by biological barriers to uptake and efficacy of exogenous nucleic acids. A number of mammalian RNAi studies support the concept that a large margin of safety will exist for any small fraction of RNAs that might be absorbed following consumption of foods from biotechnology-derived plants that employ RNA-mediated gene regulation. Food and feed derived from these crops utilizing RNA-based mechanisms is therefore expected to be as safe as food and feed derived through conventional plant breeding.

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