This article, entitled "The Label That 80 Percent of Americans Want on Food," comes from partner site BestFoodFacts.org.
You may have heard about a survey conducted earlier this year that found 80 percent of Americans want foods that contain DNA labeled to indicate as such.
So what's this all about? We asked expert Ruth MacDonald, PhD, RD, Chair and Professor of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University, for some thoughts on DNA in food.
MacDonald: All living things contain deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. You're consuming DNA every time you eat a piece of fruit, a salad or scrambled eggs. Many people have asked about potential risks of consuming foods derived from plants that are genetically modified because they're worried about eating DNA. But the reality is that we consume DNA all the time and our bodies break it down with no ill effects!
The molecular structure of DNA is actually pretty simple - it's made up of nucleic acids linked with bonds to create the double helix we are so familiar with seeing. When in that structure, DNA is able to transfer information about how to build proteins - DNA is transcribed by RNA and then RNA translates the code to put amino acids together to form proteins.
So if all foods contain DNA, what happens to that DNA when I eat?
MacDonald: This is a logical question. When DNA is consumed in foods, it enters the small intestine and is digested by enzymes that come from the pancreas. These enzymes break up the structure of the DNA and release the individual nucleic acids. When that happens, the DNA is no longer functional - kind of like taking apart a house brick by brick. DNA works only when the nucleic acids are lined up and bound together. Once the bonds are broken and the blocks released, there is no functioning DNA left - the house is demolished. Only very small amounts of these nucleic acids are absorbed into the body - most are excreted. The nucleic acids from foods are no different from those that make up the DNA of humans - so even if the food-derived nucleic acids do enter the body, they are used to build human DNA - they do not go back to their original structure from the plant.
For more information on the Food Demand Survey, check out these links from the survey author's blog: