Consumer Concern #3 - Antibiotic Resistance

Use of Marker Genes

Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health issue, but that problem is currently and primarily caused by the overuse or misuse of antibiotics. Careful consideration has been given to whether the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in crops could pose a public health concern and no evidence has been found that it does.

There is little if any transfer of genes from plants to bacteria. Bacteria pick up resistance to genes from other bacteria, and they do it easily and often. The potential risk of transfer from plants to bacteria is substantially less than the risk of normal transfer between bacteria. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, FDA has advised food developers to avoid using marker genes that encode resistance to clinically important antibiotics. --FDA Commissioner Jane E. Henney, M.D.

Discussion Question :

What is a marker gene, and what does it have to do with the consumer concern of antibiotic resistance?