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German Scientist Finds GM Genes Can Jump Species
Updated 10:55 AM ET May 29, 2000
BERLIN (Reuters) - A top German zoologist has found that genes used to modify crops can jump the species barrier and cause bacteria to mutate but he stressed Monday that the potential risk to human health was minimal.

Jena University professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, whose four-year study found that the alien gene used to modify oilseed rape could contaminate bacteria in the guts of bees, declined to comment in depth on his research before publication this summer.

But Kaatz, who fears a backlash from the scientific community on the contentious topic of genetically modified food, confirmed that gene transfer had taken place, albeit rarely.

"To the greatest possible extent though we can rule out danger to the bees," he said, advising against overinterpreting a study which has yet to be reviewed by his peers.

Although Kaatz recognized his and fellow researcher Stefan Woelfl's findings were "significant," he said he was not surprised and added that while there may be implications for bacteria in the human gut, there were no grounds for panic.

"Research is being carried out on this, although not by us."