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GMO Allergy Concerns

By Caroline Thompson ; Updated May 12, 2017

Genetically modified foods are created by adding a protein from a different organism into a crop to make it heartier and more disease- and pest-resistant. The result is a new protein that can also be new to the human diet. The potential for allergic reactions in people is the main reason for opposition to creating genetically engineered foods.

Increased Food Sensitivity

Introducing a new gene into a plant’s genome creates genetically engineered foods, also referred to as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. This makes a new genetic structure for commonly consumed foods. These new organisms can cause food sensitivity to foods you have never been allergic to in the past. For instance, GMO corn has a new protein that can trigger a reaction in someone who is sensitive to the new protein, according to “GMO Compass” magazine.

Allergies

A Cry9C protein from a soil bacterium--a strain of Bacillus thuringiensis--was introduced into a corn crop in 1996, and found its way into taco shells and other food products. The product, called StarLink, was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for nonfoods and animal feed, according to “Medical News Today.”

The FDA received reports from individuals who had adverse health reactions after consuming food products that contained the GMO corn. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), took samples from groups of people with different levels of allergy sensitivity and sent them to the FDA to test for Cry9C protein allergic response. Tests showed higher readings across all groups, but it is not uncommon to see higher background absorbency readings in frozen serum samples. The tests show the allergic variability between allergic responses in people. The CDC concluded that there is not a positive human control for this experiment, and therefore the results were inconclusive.

A $110,000 settlement was negotiated by a U.S. court to compensate farmers for the StarLink contamination incident, according to a report prepared by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited for the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.

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Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe form of allergic reaction that can be caused by a food allergy. It causes a full-body reaction to an allergen. In the case of a food allergy, the reaction happens quickly after the food is eaten. Anaphylaxis can be fatal, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The Allergy Vigilance Network is concerned about GMO foods causing anaphylactic reactions in people with food allergies, and the danger this represents to a growing portion of the population. According to the Network, food allergies are on the rise, and one of the reasons is new allergens from the use of new technologies. GMO foods are in the spotlight, and there is a push to develop an allergy network that can investigate reactions to GMOs.

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