1021-4437/05/5201- © 2005
Russian Journal of Plant Physiology, Vol. 52, No. 1, 2005, pp. 99–111. Translated from Fiziologiya Rastenii, Vol. 52, No. 1, 2005, pp. 115–128.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2005 by Kulikov.
The biotechnological projects have long ago moved
from the area of scientiﬁc research into the ﬁeld of
industrial and commercial application. The progress in
science and technology successfully introduced the
fundamental results of biological and molecular–bio-
logical studies into agriculture, food and pharmaceuti-
cal industries, medicine, and instrument-making indus-
try. Recent achievements of genetics and molecular
biology have been widely implemented into breeding
new crop varieties and livestock breeds and brought in
many various traits absent from parent species and vari-
eties. Vast industrial production of these varieties that
easily acquire the speciﬁed properties predicted by sci-
ence leads to their wide spreading. Thus, currently the
total area of GM crops in the world has already
ha. At the same time, it is in the latter
period that a question has been asked most dramati-
cally: how safe are these technologies, do they conform
to the International Guidelines for Safety in Biotech-
nology accepted by United Nations Environment Pro-
gramme as early as in 1995.
Presently the arguments of the partisans of the pre-
cautionary principle force the governments of many
countries in the European Union, Asia, and Africa to
modify their agricultural policies and give up the pro-
duction of many GM varieties. The media widely
debates the validity of the declared risks of growing
GM plants. Many arguments put forward by the advo-
cates of the precautionary principle have been sup-
ported by the experimental data (for review see [1, 2]).
This review aims at an unbiased assessment of the
prospects of implementing GM crops, with the particu-
lar emphasis on possible food risks.
CLASSIFICATION OF RISKS
The insertion of new constructions into the host
genome presumes the improvement of host properties
useful for humans and the cost reduction of plant pro-
duction. However, together with new useful traits, the
organism acquires the whole set of new qualities due to
the pleiotropic activities of the new protein and the
properties of the construction itself, including its insta-
bility and its regulatory effects on the neighboring
genes. All undesirable phenomena and events resulting
from growing and consuming the genetically modiﬁed
organisms (GMO) can be classiﬁed into three groups:
food, ecological, and agrotechnological risks.
(1) Immediate effects of toxic and allergenic trans-
genic proteins of GMO.
(2) Risks caused by the pleiotropic effects of trans-
genic proteins on plant metabolism.
(3) Risks mediated by the accumulation of herbi-
cides and their metabolites in the resistant crop variet-
ies and species.
(4) Risks of the horizontal transfer of transgenic
constructions, primarily into the genomes of bacteria
symbiotic with humans and animals, such as
chia coli, Lactobacillus
acidophillus, biﬁdus, bulgari-
Streptococcus thermophilus, Biﬁdo-
Genetically Modified Organisms and Risks of Their Introduction
A. M. Kulikov
Kol’tzov Institute of Developmental Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, ul. Vavilova 26, Moscow, 119991 Russia;
fax: 7 (095) 135-8012; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received June 7, 2004
—The major goal of this review is to assess food risks of the introduction of genetically modiﬁed
(GM) crops. The author analyzes the properties of the several classes of target proteins used in the transgenic
constructions and discusses the problems that arise due to the pleiotropic action of transgenic proteins, the hor-
izontal transfer of the transgenic constructions, primarily in bacteria, and their instability. Particular consider-
ation is given to elevated risks of using the GM plant varieties for producing pharmaceutical preparations, due
to the probability of uncontrolled cross-pollination between the GM plants and the plants grown for foodstuff
production. The author emphasizes the requirement for assessing in detail all hypothetic risks in each particular
case of cultivating GM varieties; as a control, such assessment must involve a comprehensive comparison with
the conventional parental forms.
Key words: genetically modiﬁed organisms - transgenic plants - food risk assessment
: GM—genetically modiﬁed; GMO—genetically
modiﬁed organisms; RIP—ribosome-inactivating proteins.