London - Genetically modified (GM) crops have been found to contain a potentially toxic gene, overlooked in previous checks by scientists.

The revelation in a study by the European Food Safety Authority throws new doubt over the safety of genetically modified foods.

The EU watchdog found that 54 of the 86 GM plants approved for commercial growing and food in the US contain the viral gene, which is known as ‘Gene VI’.

The researchers said the presence of the gene ‘might result in unintended ... changes’.

These may include the creation of proteins that are toxic to humans.

Although GM crops are not grown commercially in Britain, they are often fed to animals producing meat, milk and eggs on British farms.

A review of the EFSA research in Independent Science News said: ‘This situation represents a complete and catastrophic system failure.’

Saying that a protein made by Gene VI may be a human toxin, it added: ‘This is a question that can only be answered by future experiments.’

Critics of GM foods called for affected products to be taken off the market. Pete Riley of GM Freeze said: ‘They should be withdrawn from sale, until a full review of their safety has been carried out.’

But Dr Julian Little of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council said more than 130 EU-funded research projects ‘have found no higher risks’ from GM crops than from conventional plants. - Daily Mail