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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 1 May 2006
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What is Lynn Ferguson's take-home message about nutrigenomics and genetic modification

Te Aroha College: If nutrigenomics finds genes linked to disease and then hopes to manipulate these genes by changing the diet, is there much of a jump to turning these genes off? Is nutrigenomics likely to lead to genetic manipulation of people?

Lynn Ferguson (Nutrigenomics New ZealandI’m really glad you’ve asked that question. I think it’s one of the things, in going out and talking to people, they’re scared…they’re scared we are going to be genetically manipulating foods, or we are going to be genetically manipulating people or doing something like that. Please, please, if you take home no other messages — it’s not in the least what we’re trying to do.

We are really trying to use a non invasive way to utilise the information we have about the genes of plants or the genes of people, and to optimise and select. We are not trying to genetically modify anybody. It’s utilising genetics, it’s not manipulating genetics.

Jim Kaput (The NCMHD Centre of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics And in reality, it’s not likely that we can do that. Every complex trait, that’s like my hair colour or your skin tone, everything that we have is a complex trait. It requires multiple genes, so putting one in or taking one out is not going to change it. It just won’t work. How do you know which one to change? Even if you change one, the body is going to say, Oh, that one’s different. Now I’ve got to do something over here. The reality is that nutrition is going to do better at controlling how healthy we are, than anything we could do genetically.