What You Eat Affects Your Genes: RNA from Rice Can Survive Digestion and Alter Gene Expression

By Veronique Greenwood | September 21, 2011 1:59 pm

RNAs from rice can survive digestion and make their way into mammalian tissues, where they change the expression of genes.

What’s the News: It’s no secret that having lunch messes with your biochemistry. Once that sandwich hits your stomach, genes related to digestion have been activated and are causing the production of the many molecules that help break food down. But a new study suggests that the connection between your food’s biochemistry and your own may be more intimate than we thought. Tiny RNAs usually found in plants have been discovered circulating in blood, and animal studies indicate that they are directly manipulating the expression of genes.

What’s the Context:

  • MicroRNAs, or miRNAs, are molecules involved in regulation of gene expression, the transcription of genes into proteins. miRNAs bind to the messenger RNAs that ferry genetic information from DNA to the ribosomes, which translate messenger RNAs into proteins.
  • When a miRNA binds a messenger RNA, it keeps it from being translated, thus preventing that gene from being expressed.

How the Heck:

  • This team of researchers at Nanjing University had been studying the miRNAs that circulate in human blood and were surprised to find that some of the miRNAs weren’t homegrown but instead came from plants. One of the most common plant miRNAs was from rice, a staple of their Chinese subjects’ diets. Intrigued, they confirmed with a variety of tests in mice that the miRNA, which, in its native environs, usually regulates plant development, was definitely coming from food.
  • When they put the rice miRNA in cells, they found that levels of a receptor that filters out LDL, aka “bad” cholesterol, in the liver went down. As it turned out, the miRNA was binding to the receptor’s messenger RNA and preventing it from being expressed, sending receptor levels down and bad-cholesterol levels up. They saw the same effect when they tried it in mice.
  • Going further, when they fed rice to mice but also gave them a molecule that would turn off the miRNA, the liver receptor bounced back and bad cholesterol levels went down.
  • The team concludes that miRNAs may be a new class of functional components in food, like vitamins or minerals—even in an animal that’s pretty far removed from their home organism, they can manipulate gene expression and have an effect on nutrition.

The Future Holds:

  • It’s only logical that what we eat has an effect on the expression of our genes, in the general sense that nutrients from food are involved in cellular processes that control and are controlled by gene expression. But this is an unusually direct route, and surprising from an organism that’s so different from mammals.
  • Since miRNAs from plants haven’t been on scientists’ radar before, this should be a field ripe for further exploration. Do corn miRNAs circulate in the blood of people in societies that eat gigantic quantities of corn, like the US? What receptors might those miRNAs control?

Reference: Zhang, et al. Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA. Cell Research, (20 September 2011) | doi:10.1038/cr.2011.158

Image courtesy of AMagill / flickr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World
  • John Doe

    Cow’s milk contains a large number of microRNAs .

  • CJ

    So, do people who eat lots of rice also have higher LDL levels?

  • Jumblepudding

    Skipping the white rice with my bento meal today.

  • Healthguy

    Very interesting. Study does not say if this was white rice or brown. on the comment about the corn circulating this would be another reason not to have GMO anything.

  • Sarah

    Are the miRNAs diffusing into the cells through the pores? I think they would be small enough to shimmy through, no? Or are they being selectively taken up? Or is that not known? (Sorry, I don’t have access to the paper from here)

  • Rophuine

    Not sure how this is a reason not to have GMO anything. If anything, this opens up a whole new way to use GMOs to improve our general health.

  • http://www.joescat.com Joe

    Reminds me of one test done by some naturalpathic doctors with live blood where they still find evidence of fried food floating around even a day later.

    Somehow, this doesn’t sound like groundbreaking new evidence, but more like rediscovering something that’s already been known (but perhaps not too common knowledge).

  • ugh

    Healthguy, you’re an idiot. Way to draw like 100 conclusions without any proof whatsoever to support your “healthy” non-GMO BS.

  • Cory

    Rice does limit your bodies ability to remove LDL cholesterol without processing, but all cholesterol are powerful endogenous steroids, and are particularly necessary for tissue rebuilding and other growth factors. Rice seems to complement the fact that cultures which rely on that particular starch have a lower incidence of LDL cholesterol in their diet, and thus need less of a mechanism for removal.
    @#1 John Doe: I would expect the miRNA from cow’s milk to increase the human ability to process calcium from dairy sources, since civilizations from outside the tropics don’t have otherwise available dark leafy greens and such. I would imagine this is why high latitude cultures adapted to drinking milk and eating cheese, while central latitudes ate chilis and greens.

  • Cory

    @4 Healthguy: White and Brown rice come from the same plant, but White rice is polished and blanched to provide a less woody texture. The idea that miRNA from Corn could be influencing our body chemistry is something well worth exploration. C4 grains produce a very different complex of enzymes and amino acids than our currently adapted C3 cereals.

  • http://lkcl.net Luke Leighton

    So… let’s say that, for example, we have some “Research” done, which leverages a major food crop as a method for cheaply mass-producing Pharmaceutical Drugs, using Genetic Modifications. what this current research shows us is that if that modified food crop got out-of-control (which it could well do: you can’t control the wind, or stop bees and other insects from spreading pollen) then it could cross-pollinate with our food supply, and could end up killing us by LITERALLY causing our bodies to poison themselves by uncontrollably manufacturing a Pharmaceutical Drug.

    now you know why Maharishi Mahesh Yogi went absolutely ballistic when people started raving about how great GM Crops are. personally I don’t call GM Foods “Genetic Modified” Foods, I call them “Genocidal Murderous” Foods. created to bring about death instead of life.

  • Brian

    This is getting ridiculous… now people will start labeling rice as “unhealthy”
    Of course food alters your genes… that’s why we eat. People have been eating rice for thousands of years. You’re not going to grow an extra eyeball or develop cancer from eating some pilaf.

    Technology is amazing, but sometimes people draw the wrong conclusions from it.

    I think it’s funny how the same people who are willing to condemn rice based on a vague article are the same ones on their way to the tanning salon to get their “GTL on”…

    Are we supposed to stop eating plants now because some mini-RNAs were found in animal subjects? Yeah, cause eating an all-meat diet has been proven very healthy right?
    Life is too short to worry about minute things such as this. If you want to be a hypochondriac and try to squeeze out every last possible second in your lifespan, then go live like Ray Kurzweil, and take pill supplements every 10 minutes for the rest of your life.

  • Justin Williams

    So does this mean there may have been some truth to Joshua Milton Blahyi’s Cannibalism?

  • Emily

    @Brian Uh…. I’m not totally jumping on the Rice is bad bandwagon, but the key to the article is exactly what Cory said: “Rice seems to complement the fact that cultures which rely on that particular starch have a lower incidence of LDL cholesterol in their diet, and thus need less of a mechanism for removal.”

    We forget that we live in a world of imports and exports and rely daily on things that regionally do not belong in our diets. Or do not need to be in our diets as frequently, at least. You have to think in terms of your locality when you consider these things.

    No you might not develop cancer from eating pilaf, but if there is a person who is having trouble with their cholesterol, with more studies and information discovered about this, this could be a huge breakthrough for their health. I’m not in favor of a pill, but I would be in favor of saying “hey, you have bad cholesterol, cut down on rice” to someone.

    Also, for the record, I have never stepped in a tanning salon in my life and when I go out in the sun I slop on the sunscreen. Such generalizations are petty and childish. Living a healthy and balanced lifestyle (in terms of food, entertainment, hobbies, etc) is a lot easier than one might think, we just live in a society where a lot of unnecessary luxury items are considered necessities thanks to marketing and capitalism. You really DON’T need a microwave or a hundred channels on TV.

  • http://www.designsreview.com/ Aden Dexter

    Now it turns out why Eating Sandwiches at Subway is a great way for weight loss.

  • scribbler

    Fact: miRNAs from food switches genes on and off.
    Fact: Genetic modification of food could change miRNAs.
    Conclusion: Genetic modification of food could switch genes on or off with possibly horrific effects on the general population.

  • js290

    To paraphrase Homer Simpson, “The grains are protecting themselves somehow…”

  • Max Load

    @Rophuine said: “If anything, this opens up a whole new way to use GMOs to improve our general health.”

    Yeah, if we, as a species, had a better track record with our tinkering in complex systems and chemicals I might agree with you.

    Just a couple of links for consideration:

    Those’re just a few that we’ve agreed to monitor and control in the US. We all know how diligent oversight is worldwide, and realize there’s nothing to worry about, right?

  • Angus

    As a person suffering from FH familial hypercholesterolemia and early heart disease, this is highly interesting. Many FH gene carriers develop arthesclerosis and heart disease etc, but some don’t. Why is this so, and why our forebears survived (outlived?) this problem is an intriguing question. Incidentally I’ve never liked breakfast cereals like cornflakes and high-GI stuff, grew up with it, it makes me feel like crap and listless for the whole morning. Give me bacon and eggs, milk and meat any day, i feel great then.

  • Lee99

    Scribbler’s so called facts are unproven speculation. Is there any evidence for altered miRNA in GMP foods or for so called “horrific” effects or any effect for that matter? When one has an agenda, the tendency is to interpret everything in that context. I prefer evidence based investigation to establish facts before pronouncing guilty until proven innocent.

  • Naimesh

    Nobody is saying rice itself is unhealthy. Because rice may not be the only food whose miRNA stays active after cooking and digestion. There may be several other foods like that. Wonder what can be said about all kinds of meats. And then what about all the uncooked leaves in salads and sandwiches? I certainly will look at uncooked food in a different way from now on.

    GM food of course, cannot be termed as unsafe based on this. Calls most unprocessed foods into question in fact. And then it leads one to wonder if even normal mRNA can break into fragments and have gene silencing activity.

  • Morgauxo

    Wow, some people have been watching way too many sci-fi horrors.

    RNA from a genetically altered food may have an effect in the human body, just as RNA from non-modified food seems to. It is not going to have the same effect that it has on the food itself. We are not going to start producing drugs in our bodies because we ate a plant that does.

    First.. I don’t see anywhere in this article where it says that the RNA regulates cholesterol in the rice plant. That’s what it does with us. Who knows what that stretch of genetic code means in the context of the genes of a rice plant. Why assume that the effect of any plant’s RNA is going to be the same on us as it is on the plant?

    Ok, that thought may horrify some of you even more because now the result is unpredictable… but here’s my second point. The effect will be small. How many people eat rice every day? They aren’t all dead of heart attacks now are they?

    Everything we eat is or was alive. It all has RNA. Every breath we take takes in countless microscopic organisms with their own DNA/RNA. We aren’t all turning into drug producing mutant zombies now are we? I’ve certainly never heard of anyone turning into a rice or corn plant!

    All GMO’s are is food with a few genes added taken from some other organism, usually a bacteria which gives it some beneficial trait. You have probably already been exposed to the bacteria, ingested it with food, inhaled it and gotten it in a cut or scrape a million times already, RNA and all.

    Sorry, life just isn’t as interesting as a scifi horror. Get over it!

  • Nick

    @Luke, you understand so little about this issue that it’s kind of staggering. MiRNAs cannot cause the body to magically produce some kind of deadly big pharma cocktail. What they can do is down-regulate the expression of genes in the body, by reducing the rate at which the mRNA for those genes are translated. This could certainly have health implications, as this research suggests, but it will not cause your body to suddenly produce toxic chemicals.

  • Sarah

    Scribbler, the miRNAs will only be modified if someone modifies them.

    I don’t think they generally do. There are cheaper/easier ways to increase/decrease a gene’s expression level than futzing around with miRNAs.

  • Cathy

    Brings whole new meaning to “you are what you eat.”

  • Sam

    Gosh – if this is what rice can do, who knows what sort of change something like an apple could bring about.

    just saying…

  • Tomek

    Tiny RNAs usually found plants have been discovered circulating in blood, and animal studies indicate that they are directly manipulating the expression of genes.
    I kept reading that sent over, confused.

    I think it should say “Tiny RNAs usually found IN plants have…”

    [Technically even that’s a bit awkward, but not bad]

  • KeepUp

    @HealthGuy . . . riiight. How much do you really know about GMOs? Stop spreading FUD and go eat your oatmeal and bacon…granted that you’re not vegan .. if you are, I forgive you.

  • Jen

    Similar to horizontal gene transfer, as seen in the green sea slug.

  • Kdoyle

    Hypothesis: You do not understand the scientific method.

    “miRNA from food switches genes on and off”
    ” Genetic modification of food could change miRNAs.”

    Both of these statements are part of a hypothesis not facts. A fact is data that proves or disproves the hypothesis. These are measurable observations in science.
    A hypothesis is not a FACT therefore you can not draw any conclusion from the combination of TWO hypothesis.

    Based on your comment alone you do not understand the scientific method.

  • Iowa

    “They saw the same effect when they tried it mice.”

    Tried it ON mice or tried it TWICE?

  • badnicolez

    Does anybody think this might be the reason why a plant-based diet is so much better for our health?

  • The future

    I would suggest the pro-GMO crowd volunteer to have these myopic ideas tested on themselves and leVe the rest of the sane people on the planet alone. Alas, GMO crops are poorly controlled, outcrossing with other similar crops and we are all being experimented on with potentially irreversible consequences. Until there is a homing beacon that magically calls GMO genes back home, profit driven and experimental activity on mass populations with unknown outcomes remains a really, really dumb idea.

  • RavynG

    #22- Morgauxo says: “All GMO’s are is food with a few genes added taken from some other organism, usually a bacteria which gives it some beneficial trait. You have probably already been exposed to the bacteria, ingested it with food, inhaled it and gotten it in a cut or scrape a million times already, RNA and all.”

    that is what Monsanto wants you to think. The reason these genes are modified is so they can spray the plants with herbicides/insecticides and not kill the plant along with the weeds and bugs! GM allows them to poison your food without killing it! THAT is what you are eating when you eat a GM food! If it is so safe why not just spray some Raid on your kids’ PB&J next time?

  • JD

    The biotech industry says genetically engineered food is safe because they say they proved that the bits of genes from other species and related foreign proteins are digested and do not enter the body of the host or interact with host genes. However other scientists have shown that they are incorporated into intestinal bacteria which then take on new characteristics and are associated with abnormal cell structure of the gut lining. Some have worried that foreign protein bits they might interact with host genes and this suggests all food genes could end up being found to interact with host genes and affect metabolism. People who demand the right to know what is in our food supply (GMO labeling) are blocked by an industry that spent half a billion dollars in the last decade to influence the US Congress to promote, subsidize and not label GM crops. Any US or British scientist who finds results of negative health or environmental impacts is crucified by a research community that exists largely through funding from the biotech industry. Who is going to pay for the scientific studies many skeptics are waiting for in order to assure animal and human health of GMO food? The Chinese government!

  • john

    Most of the GM and anti-GM camps seem to have nutjobs as spokespeople.

    While monsanto is causing economic havoc and destroying the non-GM crops, some GM crops are making agriculture possible in areas stricken by poverty and drought.

    What we need is a cohesive governing strategy that will protect the genetics of current crops while not stifling innovation. Longer testing periods and wider health equivalency guidelines need to be drawn.

    Lets talk about both sides of this.

  • TheCritic

    @ GM Food haters:

    GM modified foods, provided the “Pharmaceutical Drug in my rice” scenario doesn’t occur (which it won’t), have saved far more lives and will continue to do so than they ever killed (which is negligible if much at all). GM foods like every strawberry you eat, every tomato you eat, damn near everything you eat, have generally been modified in order to increase their resistance to dying from other natural causes like plant diseases and pests. GM foods have increased worldwide agricultural production on the order of several magnitudes.

    To those saying this proves that GM foods is now going to get in these miRNA’s (which is what half the boys who cried wolf in here are doing), you ought to do more research into how receptors and miRNA’s and general biology works before saying such things and trying to scare up support. Yeah, there are negative side effects to genetically modifying foods, but they are far….far…..far outweighed by the pros. In addition, who amongst those saying this is another way bad things can get in our cells knows how receptors work? You can’t just add a drug to a miRNA and it function the way it did before. Besides being significantly larger, the now altered chemical now functions chemically very different. Receptors aren’t built to adapt to our random shenanigans. If you alter it, it doesn’t inhibit the same mRNA like it did before. It probably won’t even have the to bind to it at all, possibly not even enter the cell.

    As far as genetically engineering a new miRNA into plants for us to eat that goes terribly awry and kills everything? I’ve got nothing for you. That’s clearly the most likely scenario to occur because it’s quite common that exactly the genes we would like to put into plants for whatever unknown purpose (make them express genes that help them produce ebola I would imagine) are the same genes that help those plants to grow in the wild or taste better or anything that would possibly be able to produce a profit in a free market. You’re right.

    Maybe we should be looking out for a team of rogue synthetic biologists and genetic engineers who wasted their time getting an education and spent all that money just so that they could synthesize proteins to put into a food that would be eaten by the whole world and kill everyone. That appears to be the most threatening scenario facing the world today, and for the life of me, I don’t understand why more isn’t being done to stop it.

  • Chris


    If you love GMO foods so much you eat them. They have to be great right?

    We as a people understand DNA so little that we are playing games with our lives. Getting plants to produce pesticides then eating plants those plants that product 1000 more toxic than nature may have long term consequences. If I spray an apple with RAID bug killer and you eat it, it probably won’t kill you. But eat an apple everyday like that and you’ll probably take off 20 years of your life. If you don’t agree with me, take the risk yourself. Ingest as much BT laden foods as you can yourself. Most people don’t understand the cumuliative effects of everyday habbits. If you live to fifty and your getting GMO’s in all your food, you’ve just had 54,750 meals with something that could be very harmful to your long term health. Google the studies for yourself.

    If your starving while barely surviving on garbage, then by all means eat them too, but theres no reason to eat them if you have enough money for better food. I don’t care to save 10 cents on a ten dollar meal personally, with food that hasn’t gone though extensive long term studies and is policed by an organization that has huge conflicts of interests.

    The fact that GMO foods aren’t required to be labeled is outrageous. Over 50 percent of Americans wouldn’t buy GMO foods given the choice. This topic has repeatedly come up and been shot down by the likes of Monstanto . If its healthy and safe why not let people know?

    Just because the FDA allows GMO’s doesn’t mean they are harmful, it just means they won’t kill you right away. Thats setting the bar about as low possible.

    Some people have higher standards.

  • Dee

    The ONLY people to have benefited from GMO foods are the companies that produce them. Go ahead and ask farmers in India how planting GMO crops has worked for them. Oh, you haven’t heard about the failure rate of those crops? You know nothing about the sky rocketing rate of suicides among these farmers? Companies invest in GMO developement not to benefit mankind but their bottom line. GMO foods can be pattented. Now do you get it? Control the food, you control the people.

  • Chris


    Dr. Herbert Ley, former Commissioner of the FDA:

    “First, it is providing a means whereby key individuals on its payroll are able to obtain both power and wealth through granting special favors to certain politically influential groups that are subject to its regulation. This activity is similar to the ‘protection racket’ of organized crime: for a price, one can induce FDA administrators to provide ‘protection’ from the FDA itself.

    “Secondly, as a result of this political favoritism, the FDA has become a primary factor in that formula whereby cartel-oriented companies in the food and drug industry are able to use the police powers of government to harass or destroy their free-market competitors.

    “And thirdly, the FDA occasionally does some genuine public good with whatever energies it has left over after serving the vested political and commercial interest of its first two activities.”

    Another note for all you GMO loving nuts: Ya, GMO foods are safe, real safe.

  • Me3PO

    @TheCritic I love your comment. :)

  • BillF

    The vast majority of GMOs in the world are Roundup-resistant soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. No strawberries, etc., much less “all crops.” GMOs have nothing to do with increasing food production, feeding the world, making plants more healthy or any of the other drivel from @TheCritic and several others, who have clearly drunk the biotech industry Kool-Aid. They’re made to survive dousing with Roundup (aka glyphosate) herbicide. They make weed control easier for a time, until Roundup-resistant weeds evolve, which they have now to the tune of 11 million acres or more, leading to greater use of 2,4-D, paraquat, aceotchlor and many other more toxic herbicides — Dow will soon introduce 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans to make things even easier! 2,4-D was part of Agent Orange used in Vietnam, probable human carcinogen (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), sex hormone disruptor, recently linked to increased risk of Parkinson’s disease – and famers will be using tens of millions of more lbs. of this stuff with these crops. That’s what biotech agriculture is really all about, synergies between the seed and pesticide divisions of the big biotech (= pesticide+ seed) companies.

    Practically the only other biotech trait is “Bt” or insect resistance. Interestingly, Monsanto and others are working on genetic engineering to introduce miRNA as a built-in insecticide because insects are evolving resistance to Bt (see below). The miRNA research shows that: 1) miRNA from food can get into the bloodstream; 2) regulate expression of entirely different genes from a different organism (off-target effects). This should make us extra-cautious about intentionally introducing miRNA into food crops via genetic engineering, and is still another reason we should replace our current governmental rubber stamp “approval process” for GMOs with a stringent, science-based review process. And yes, the reason Monsanto is working on miRNA insecticides is that insect pests (corn rootworm) are evolving resistance to the current generation of “Bt crops” with genetically engineered insecticides — and this has happened because EPA caved to Monsanto 8 years ago and didn’t require needed measures to forestall resistance, see: http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/09/monsanto-superinsects-eating-your-corn-diversify and http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/09/monsanto-denies-superinsect-science.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    @ #16 Scribbler
    Fact: miRNAs from food switches genes on and off.
    Fact: Genetic modification of food could change miRNAs.
    Conclusion: Genetic modification of food could switch genes on or off with possibly enormously beneficial effects on the populace.

    Why does it have to be bad?

  • BioNerd

    Didn’t the article say that the miRNAs only affect the mRNA molecules? mRNA is just a messenger for making proteins, not your actual DNA. Your genes cannot be altered by the miRNAs. Therefore, the effect of miRNAs is not permanent – as soon as the mRNA gets to a ribosome and makes a protein without being hassled by miRNA, you’re back to normal.

    So go ahead, eat rice, and if you find yourself growing a third eye just stop and you’ll be fine. I, myself, would welcome a third eye. It’d be way cool.

  • Katie

    @Chris: YOU may know very little about DNA, and that is probably why you have a problem with GMs, but we actually know a lot more than you think about DNA. There is no effective difference in selective breeding and in vitro GM. Modifying genes is modifying genes. You can call a Malti-Poo a GM and you would be right. It seems to me that these “organic” food companies are taking advantage of the paranoia of people who don’t know know much (and aren’t expected to) about science.

    @TheCritic: Thanks for giving them an explanation. I feel discouraged sometimes. I feels like trying to explain evolution to creationists and they just respond with “you might come from a monkey but I don’t. And I know because it says so in the bible.” One piece of literature stacked with fear makes people disregard 10,o00 articles of hard science. Fear is a powerful weapon.

    p.s. “Organic” subscribers: I bet you hate chemical fertilizers too… and how they destroy ecosystems etc…. well…did you know that scientists are using GM to alter crop plants to fix their own nitrogen (like legumes do) so that farmers wont have to use chemical fertilizers any more? Probably not. Stop being a sucker and letting these organic companies take advantage of your fear. If you are scared about what you don’t understand, you might want to go back to school and get an education in science and learn how things really work. You can pay for it with with all they money you save for no longer being a sucker.

    -Former Organic Food Sucker

  • Katie

    @Dee: Fear controls the people.
    @Iain: Exactly what I’m thinking. If you can suppress the expression of the “bad cholesterol” filter, you can enhance it. Screw it, I’m gonna start a health food company that makes food with big “Genetically Modified” labels on them and let the smart people buy it.
    @Organic Cult: I’ve been meaning to ask… Why do so many of you who don’t like to consume “chemicals” (as if that makes any sense) make an exception for Tetrahydrocannabinol?

  • GOPCenter

    GMOs = patents=control: That is their biggest danger. It makes the tweeking of the plant seem safe in comparison, despite known horizontal species to species spread of genes. Monsanto is like a nation unto itself, like Walmart. The over-lapping areas of control in our world no longer match political boundaries. The old idea of citizens controlling their government by voting is a weak and pathetically unrealistic illusion. Voters are mostly gullible and have short attention spans.

    Advertising in political campaigns is controlled by Monsanto, Walmart and other Corporate nations. Government is a parasite pretending to protect us in an attempt to keep us paying taxes to keep the bribable law makers employed and in positions of power.

    How much of your taxes goes to social services so valued by Democrats, and how much of your taxes go to Monsanto GMO soybean subsidies and GMO corn subsidies?

    Our government is too big. It is merely an instrument to make it easy for Corporate nations to thrive. GMOs are only dangerous in that they give Corporate nations control of food. And who controls the Corporate nations? China will soon if they do not already.

  • Mark T

    I suspect, the reason many people suspect GM foods and active DNA modification by foods to cellular DNA presents the following problem.

    The geneticists involved in the introduction/removal of the “controlling” DNA work specifically for the corporation selling the seed, in most cases some very large corporation, AMD, Monsanto, Cargill etc. To my admittedly limited recollection, at no time have these firms or ones like them been found to be especially interested in the best interests of the consumer. Moreover, on more than one occasion, (Monsanto/BST/ Fox News) case comes to mind, the producer, the media AND the government all colluded to prevent public disclosure about information regarding a carcinogen in the food-stream.

    Who is to say, someone with an ideological agenda isn’t/hasn’t already approached geneticists looking for information about how to modify specific genes with these food-tools.

    It seems pretty consistent with the MO – particularly (but by no means exclusively) in the US, where being hyper-rich & a sociopathic ideologue is almost a given condition.

  • Ago2

    Instead of freaking out about GMO and scifi scenarios, why can’t we logically dissect the data presented in the publication? The concentration of the miRNA that gets into a human/mouse cell from digesting rice is unlikely to be near the concentration used in some of the experiments. Can any other lab find plant miRNAs in their small RNA libraries from animal tissues? It is interesting to imagine that there is potential to modify health by understanding which plants contain ‘transferable miRNAs’ that could be beneficial for preventing or delaying certain human diseases to which one is genetically susceptible.

  • donga1

    Read the article. The researchers exposed rat cells to 1000 times higher concentration of the miRNA than natually found to get that effect. Unless you start eating 1000 times more rice, you’re fine.


    Some russian bloggers have spotted what seems to be the signs of Photoshop used for falsifying Western blot images: http://progenes.livejournal.com/136078.html
    Specifically, these figures have copy-pasted images:

  • David Alton

    Not a surprise to me!! I was given prednisone for asthma and became allergic to all the foods I ate during the week I was on the drug. Clearly the corticosteroid had opened up the intestinal lining and let larger molecules of food through and my immune system identified them as dangerous. I am still allergic to all these foods after 20 years.

  • Veronique Greenwood

    @Kodak, here’s what happened with the Photoshop stuff: http://blogs.nature.com/news/2011/11/mispaste_its_the_new_typo_1.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+news%2Frss%2Fnewsblog+%28News+Blog+-+Blog+Posts%29

    It turned out to be a “typo,” and the researchers have corrected it; it doesn’t seem to have affected the results.

    Thanks for letting us know!

  • http://gmopundit.blogspot.com David Tribe

    There is a history of safe use of these small RNAs in food, as they are common in major plant material appearing in our diet

    Endogenous small RNAs in grain: semi-quantification and sequence homology to human and animal genes.
    Ivashuta SI, Petrick JS, Heisel SE, Zhang Y, Guo L, Reynolds TL, Rice JF, Allen E, Roberts JK.
    Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Feb;47(2):353-60. Epub 2008 Nov 27.

    Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs) are effector molecules of RNA interference (RNAi), a highly conserved RNA-based gene suppression mechanism in plants, mammals and other eukaryotes. Endogenous RNAi-based gene suppression has been harnessed naturally and through conventional breeding to achieve desired plant phenotypes. The present study demonstrates that endogenous small RNAs, such as siRNAs and miRNAs, are abundant in soybean seeds, corn kernels, and rice grain, plant tissues that are traditionally used for food and feed. Numerous endogenous plant small RNAs were found to have perfect complementarity to human genes as well as those of other mammals. The abundance of endogenous small RNA molecules in grain from safely consumed food and feed crops such as soybean, corn, and rice and the homology of a number of these dietary small RNAs to human and animal genomes and transcriptomes establishes a history of safe consumption for dietary small RNAs.
    PMID: 19068223 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

  • http://gpysports.org/dice.html Jim Mooney

    That makes sense. People from corn-fed states are kind of corny ;’)

    Seriously, I read that the Chinese had discovered a tRNA herb that helps with the flu, but the herb wasn’t mentioned. Since I get persistent flu, I’d sure like to know what that is. Anyone know what it is, or where I could find it?

  • J2

    Part of the problem about the whole GmO issue is that you’ve got a lot of people with financial interests telling people these modifications are safe, that everything’s under control, trust us, you’re a sucker and an idiot, etc. But the truth is that there are absolutely no good long term studies on GMO safety, and there is plenty of evidence that unexpected things happen when you are dealing with complex systems, not all of which are good. Being cautious is a valid survival strategy, and when someone tells us we’re stupid for being cautious, I find it wise to be skeptical…

  • Daniel

    The largest rice consuming countries, on contrast, eat the smallest quantity of animal products. Animals contain “bad” cholesterol, so therefore there is check and balance. Its Americans that have health and food issues because of companies like monsanto altering our diets, through (GM) with permission from congress, that eliminates the economic checks & balances of our food system; by creating surplus, from subsidies, to control the market there by forcing corn into everything, literally- everything. I would concede that we now have a lot of GM corn miRNA in our bodies. WE NEED LABELING LAWS SO THE CONSUMERS HAVE A EQUAL INFO TO MAKE DECISIONS AND LET THE FREE MARKET DECIDE THE FATE OF GMOs.

  • http://waedwards.net William Edwards

    How the body handles food is a process developed by the body through generations of trial and error. The human genome, DNA, remembers the big threats and the big rewards. Some would call it instinct. The body responds and remodels to fit its current environment. When you start to feed the body foods that it doesn’t recognize it responds with genetic switching to accommodate the new foods. It may or may not respond correctly. When it responds incorrectly you have disease. It may be the Metabolic Syndrome diseases. It may be cancer. It’s making it’s best guess based on its memory of the past.
    Packaged and processed foods lack the synergy and total nutrition of fresh wholesome foods. They are but chemically enhanced zombies of what was once real food. I primarily eat organic non-GMO foods without labels and that I know where it came from. Restaurant and fast foods are out. It’s not always possible but it greatly enhances my odds for survival. Being vegan helps.


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