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In 2000 the FDA recalled corn tortillas that had been made with corn contaminated with a GM corn variety that was approved for livestock consumption, not human. Although the FDA did not find a direct link between the GM corn (called StarLink) and allergic reactions in consumers, this recall spurred discussion about the health risks of GMO foods.
However, there is no evidence that GMOs are any more or less allergenic than their non-modified counterparts.
Ninety percent of food allergies are caused by the common allergens in peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, shellfish, and fish. In 1996, researchers found that the main allergen from Brazil nuts retains its allergenicity after being transferred into a GMO soybean which was never approved for the market. This case helped establish the policy that any protein is suspected to cause an allergic reaction should never be introduced into a GMO crops.
Since GMO market approval is under strict regulation, we should probably be more concerned about contamination from unauthorized GMOs (such as StarLink corn) than about allergies to common GMO foods.
With appropriate oversight, the GM technology will not cause more allergic responses than conventional breeding. On the contrary, we rely on GMO technology to overcome some of the most difficult challenges for food safety. For example, to prevent contamination, scientists are engineering GMO crops to only self-pollinate. Additionally, scientists can reduce or remove the common allergens in our crops with GMO technology.
There is still a long way to go before we could enjoy a roll of bread made from gluten-free GMO wheat, but in the future, GMO technology could become a solution to, rather than a cause of, food allergies.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on GMOs in a special edition of the online magazine “Signal to Noise”, produced by Science in the News. You can read the entire series here: Signal to Noise Special Edition: GMOs and Our Food
Read full, original post: Nothing to Sneeze at: the Allergenicity of GMOs