I've previously said that I am going 'briefly' through the "600 studies" held on the GENERA database, published at Bifortified.org, in the order in which they were listed on 18 Sept 2013. The general purpose is to counter the extraordinary claims that the entries on this list demonstrate the human food safety of GM crops. See the Introduction to this series [link].
I've read most of the studies below to a deep level; I'd like to give a lot more time to some.
My Great Big List of Studies: Entries 7, 8, 9 & 10 – Alexander et al 2002, 2006, 2007, 2004
These four studies were part of a series examining the fate of Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola (GT73) GM DNA in feed processing, in vitro and in production animals. The series was…
•Alexander et al 2002 [pdf link]
•Sharma et al 2004 [pdf link]
•Alexander et al 2004 [abstract link - pdf paywall] Pay or seek access at library/university
•Alexander et al 2007 [pdf link]
•Sharma et al 2006 [pdf link]
•Alexander et al 2006 [pdf link]
Alexander and Sharma were co-authors on all of these studies. Alexander et al 2007 was a review that referenced studies through to 2005. It referenced neither Sharma 2006 nor Alexander 2006, though on the same inquiry line, so I have listed it as an earlier work.
Context: Before anyone can do any work on patented GM products there must be an agreement from the patent owner. In the past patent owners have placed study and publication restrictions on research [links – Emily Waltz pdf, Sappington et al pdf ]. Thus the researchers would have needed agreement (either general or specific) from Monsanto to conduct these studies.
In all studies but the Alexander 2007 review Monsanto was acknowledged for providing materials including seed, feed and genetic information necessary for the conduct of the studies.
Alexander acknowledged receiving the NSERC*-Monsanto industrial scholarship in his first two studies, and Sharma acknowledged NSERC* fellowship in the first three. *NSERC = Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Three researchers from Monsanto co-authored the Alexander et al 2004 study.
I have briefly described five of these studies in print previously [pdf link - skip the first two pages]. The context of seed grown and feed prepared and supplied by the patent holder is very important. Different test material preparation methodologies (not always declared or faithfully described) and feed/food matrices can affect DNA and protein detections.
This study series asked questions are of the type "What happens to DNA after it enters the body of a pig/sheep/cow? Can it be taken up by bacteria in the digestive system of the animal? Can it enter the bloodstream/cells of the animal?"
This series provided information in the progress of DNA release and degradation in the digestive tracts of some production animals. Sharma et al reported the presence of GM DNA in the digestive tissues of sheep and pigs and in the liver and kidney of pigs. These are the sort of findings that are antithetical to assumptions made by our food regulator FSANZ. See further discussion under Entry 2 Aeschbacher 2005 [link]
While most study of the fate of DNA has taken place in production animals, a study from 10 years ago on humans, Forsman et al 2003 [link – pdf paywall], detected high-copy DNA from meals on rabbit meat in various components of human blood. This study provided evidence that DNA can survive human digestion to enter the bloodstream, in line with many such findings in other animals with different digestive systems. Since high copy plant DNA has been found throughout animal products it was assumed that GM DNA would likewise be present throughout, though more difficult to detect due to lower copy number. I am unaware of any studies answering questions about the interaction between food derived DNA and the human body. These seem to be completely open.
I consider the participation of Monsanto in the Alexander 2004 study to be significant. One of the great livestock production and human concerns of GM crops related to the question of whether gut microflora could take up antibiotic resistance genes from GM feed/food. This study referenced the findings of Netherwood et al 2004 [pdf link] published earlier that year. In the only human study of its kind Netherwood had reported the low level presence of the transgenic [cp4] epsps gene from Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM soy in human gut microflora. The Alexander-Monsanto study examined Monsanto's RR GT73 GM canola (which reportedly does not contain genes for antibiotic resistance) in sheep. I don't know if the sheep diets contained other GM products containing such genes. The study showed electon micrographs of microflora colonising feed materials, perfectly placed it seemed for uptake of advantageous genetic material, should it be present. Alexander et al 2006 reported that transgenic RR GT73 GM canola DNA was not detectable in sheep microflora. I would like to read these studies and references more closely. I don't think these questions have reached a status of being sufficiently answered. I could be corrected.
These studies highlight and support established concerns for the human food safety of GM crops. They represent the beginning of necessary inquiry that should have occurred before GM foods entered the human food chain.