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Open AccessArticle

Optimizing the Use of Zebrafish Feeding Trials for the Safety Evaluation of Genetically Modified Crops

Zebrafishlab, Veterinary Physiology and Biochemistry, Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
Systemic Physiological and Ecotoxicological Research (SPHERE), Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerpen, Belgium
Centre of Excellence in Mycotoxicology and Public Health, Department of Bioanalysis, Ghent University, Ottergemsesteenweg 460, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Evolutionary Ecology Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
Department of Food Technology, Food safety and Health, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Valentin Vaerwyckweg 1, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Technology and Food Sciences Unit, Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Burg. Van Gansberghelaan 115, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(6), 1472;
Received: 21 January 2019 / Revised: 23 February 2019 / Accepted: 18 March 2019 / Published: 23 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Zebrafish 2.0: A Model for Toxicological Research)
In Europe, the toxicological safety of genetically modified (GM) crops is routinely evaluated using rodent feeding trials, originally designed for testing oral toxicity of chemical compounds. We aimed to develop and optimize methods for advancing the use of zebrafish feeding trials for the safety evaluation of GM crops, using maize as a case study. In a first step, we evaluated the effect of different maize substitution levels. Our results demonstrate the need for preliminary testing to assess potential feed component-related effects on the overall nutritional balance. Next, since a potential effect of a GM crop should ideally be interpreted relative to the natural response variation (i.e., the range of biological values that is considered normal for a particular endpoint) in order to assess the toxicological relevance, we established natural response variation datasets for various zebrafish endpoints. We applied equivalence testing to calculate threshold equivalence limits (ELs) based on the natural response variation as a method for quantifying the range within which a GM crop and its control are considered equivalent. Finally, our results illustrate that the use of commercial control diets (CCDs) and null segregant (NS) controls (helpful for assessing potential effects of the transformation process) would be valuable additions to GM safety assessment strategies. View Full-Text
Keywords: food safety; genetically modified crops; zebrafish; feeding trial food safety; genetically modified crops; zebrafish; feeding trial
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Gabriëls, I.J.; Vergauwen, L.; De Boevre, M.; Van Dongen, S.; Blust, R.; De Saeger, S.; Eeckhout, M.; De Loose, M.; Knapen, D. Optimizing the Use of Zebrafish Feeding Trials for the Safety Evaluation of Genetically Modified Crops. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20, 1472.

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