EUROPE – A recent study published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has shed light on a crucial aspect of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — certain genetic criteria that may determine their food safety. 

The findings could pave the way for the development of innovative methods to assess the risks associated with genetically engineered food and feed.

The study, conducted in collaboration between EFSA and Innovamol, a data science consultancy, involved an extensive review of literature focusing on Open Reading Frames (ORFs). 

These ORFs are specific segments of an organism’s DNA and RNA responsible for determining the proteins it produces. In the context of food and feed, these proteins may include allergens or toxins, making their accurate prediction vital for understanding the safety of GMOs.

The researchers identified specific genetic criteria, such as codon identity, nucleotide composition, and mRNA structure, that play a role in determining the safety of GMOs. 

This knowledge opens up avenues for the development of new methods to assess the risks associated with genetically engineered food and feed.

However, the study also highlighted existing limitations and challenges. The data available is not uniformly structured, and applications of the identified criteria are diverse, with insufficient information specific to food and feed. 

Additionally, the reliability of in silico methods for ORF definition, prediction, and selection still needs validation.

While the literature review unveiled certain features of ORF nucleotide sequences that could be valuable in assessing the likelihood of relevant ORFs’ expression for GMO risk assessment, the underlying criteria need further research and refinement. 

Combining the diverse prediction methods into a unified tool is complex due to their variability and often organism-specific datasets.

The study marks a significant step forward in understanding the genetic determinants of GMO safety, offering a foundation for continued research and the potential development of tools to enhance the assessment of risks associated with genetically modified food and feed.

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