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Health authorities approve genetically modified vitamin

The modified bacteria produce large quantities of vitamin B2.

(www.roche.com)

The Federal Health Office has approved the production of a genetically modified vitamin B2 to be used as a nutrient in food, saying it does not pose a threat to human health or the environment.

The manufacturer of the vitamin, the Swiss chemicals group Roche Vitamins, says the new type of vitamin is more pure than the synthetically manufactured version. The vitamin will be produced in Germany.

It is made by multiplying a gene called Bacillus subtilis, which produces bacteria that in turn boost levels of vitamin B2.

The Federal Health Office said it was up to manufacturers to decide whether to sell the vitamin in Switzerland. It is legally allowed to sell it as a nutrient and a food colouring agent.

The vitamin's reception in the Swiss marketplace is not yet known. Some major Swiss retailers have refused to sell any genetically modified products.

Health effects monitored

Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, is a water-soluble nutrient found in all vegetables and in micro-organisms, and it plays an important function in the metabolism of cells in humans and animals.

As vitamin B2 is not naturally found in the human body, it has to be provided by foodstuffs. For years, synthetic vitamin B2 has been used as an added nutrient in foods to guarantee that high enough levels of it are consumed.

The Federal Health Office has said current scientific knowledge and research carried out on the vitamin confirmed it did not pose a risk to human health. The Office has granted Roche an authorisation licence for a five-year period, during which the vitamin will be monitored by the authorities.

The genetically modified vitamin, which is already licensed for animal consumption, has also been approved by other Swiss government agencies, including the Federal Office of Agriculture and the Environment and the Federal Office of Veterinary Sciences.

swissinfo with agencies


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