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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

GMO & Allergy

Here is an interesting article on GMOs and allergy.

It seems to lie somewhere between fully objective and pro-GMO. It highlights the fact that we do not really know whether GMO foods increase the risk of food allergy or whether they might actually help prevent sensitization down the road.

I am cynical on GMO until the foods are proven to be safe. I am certainly not opposed to innovations but it feels as though we have moved quickly toward widespread adoption of these products without sufficient, conclusive research. As this article notes, "a major health concern is the potential of GMO foods to increase allergies and anaphylaxis in humans eating GMO foods."

The fact that the increasing prevalence of GMO foods seems to correlate with the significant increase in the number of people with food allergy is cause for concern. There is little research to prove or disprove a linkage between GMOs and allergy, but the industry practice seems to err on the side of assuming that GMO products are safe.

Something is causing the significant increase in food allergy across the board and GMO is widely considered a lead candidate.

Overall, the article provides a reasonable overview of the GMO issue as it pertains to allergy.

Here is an excerpt:

"GMOs have the potential to directly affect people with food allergies for either their benefit or to their detriment. Foods that when grown organically may be tolerated by people with allergies, such as a potato, may not be tolerated once they have been genetically modified. For instance, potatoes have been modified by adding a fish protein gene and these potatoes could trigger an allergic reaction in people with seafood allergies. On the other hand, a food may be altered to allow a sensitized person to eat it. There are two main concerns with genetically modified foods and food allergies:

  • "New allergies. GMOs may contain new proteins. Since most known food allergies involve proteins, GMO proteins could become new allergens. However, advocates of genetic modification dismiss those fears by pointing out that genetically modified crops undergo extensive testing.

  • "Unknown ingredients. Food labeling guidelines, especially in the United States, make it difficult for people with allergies to known that they are eating genetically modified foods. Even when a food is marketed as containing GMOs, packages will not indicate which genes have been inserted into those foods. Therefore people who experience an allergic reaction to a food may not be able to determine whether it was the original food protein, a GMO protein or other substance that triggered the reaction. There are many opinions from scientists, industry advocates, non-GMO food activists, and government regulators on the pros and cons of GMO foods and it can be difficult to identify what concerns are being addressed through testing.

"In theory, any gene could be inserted into a GMO food. Known genes that have been inserted to improve a crop plant include brazil nut genes into soybeans and cod proteins into potatoes. Testing of the soybean-brazil nut crop revealed the presence of a known allergen and that particular GMO soybean has not been produced commercially. People with nut or fish allergies would require knowledge of these modifications prior to being exposed to these foods."

The jury is out ... my research continues.

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