DNA In Your Food

DNA In Your Food

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted May 31, 2007 in DNA Testing, DNA in General, Genetically Modified Foods and Organisms

Is DNA safe to eat? You may not have thought about it before, but you actually eat plant and animal DNA every day (assuming you’re not vegetarian, of course). In fact, there’s a whole industry set-up around testing the DNA of our food source.

Earlier this month, Therion International helped identify fake red snapper being served at sushi restaurants in Chicago. DNA tests showed they were actually selling tilapia and red sea bream instead. Another such company, IdentiGEN, has developed DNA TraceBack – a technique which checks on the path a piece of meat has taken from the ranch to your mouth. IdentiGEN calls DNA “nature’s bar code.” DNA tests are also performed on food to make sure that it is not genetically modified.

Other foods that have been verified using DNA tests:

  • basmati riceRice – basmati or other
  • Vareties of potato
  • Durum wheat for pasta
  • Composition of fruit pastes and pulps
  • Purity of olive oil
  • Varieties of tea and coffee

And here’s a myth about genes and food addressed by Biotechnology Australia:

Myth: GM food means that we’d be eating genes and it’s not natural to eat another organism’s genes.


It’s impossible to eat without eating genes.

Every organism contains genes. When we eat an apple, we eat the genes in the DNA contained within its cells. These genes in the apple are ‘foreign’ genes, but they don’t have any effect on us because they are digested. The same goes for eating meat.

For more on the DNA testing of food, see this Food Manufacture article: The gene is out of the bottle.

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Comment by Sara

Thanks so much for this, Hsien! :)

Comment by Mary Emma

Amazing, Hsien. I had never thought about this. I’ll have to consider how I can write about this topic for my Country Kitchen column in print newspapers.

Comment by Hsien

Mary Emma, If you write it up and there’s an online copy, please let me know!


[...] John Hawks liked Biotechnology Australia’s thoughts on genetically modified food. [...]


[...] DNA In Your Food at Eye on DNA [...]

Comment by Kailyn

Thanks this helped with my science fair project a whole lot!! :-)


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