Genetically Modified Food and Allergies – What are we eating?
BioVeda Health and Wellness Center in Vacaville, CA recently posted the following article to the BioVeda of Vacaville blog about Genetically Modified Foods (also know as Genetically Engineered – GE) and their impact on health.
There is a lot of concern today about genetically-modified foods or GMOs and for good reason – no one really knows how safe they are!
Genetically-modified foods are the result of manipulating of the DNA of an organism. Some people assert that the environment has manipulated DNA for years through mutation and natural selection, and by man for thousands of years through artificial selection.
However, the term “genetically modified” usually implies a more direct manipulation of DNA through modern-day biotechnology processes. This process of artificially transferring genes from one organism to another often involves crossing certain species that never would in nature…and some consider this potentially dangerous. Many refer to the result as “Frankenfood.”
One novel feature of this revolution in our food is that the food is owned. Not individual sacks of wheat or bushels of potatoes, but entire varieties of plants are now corporate products. In some cases, entire species are owned. The term monopoly takes on new power when one imagines a company owning major portions of our food supply — the one thing that every single person now and into the future will always need to buy.
Some argue that there are benefits to genetic engineering. Plants that are resistant to the effects of pesticides. Faster growing fish. But, how accurately can biotechnology firms predict what will happen when the newly-introduced genes begin to interact with existing ones? There appears to be a risk of unforeseen illnesses, allergens or weaknesses that could be created.
Who knows the possible side effects on humans or the environment that could result when genetically-modified organisms are introduced to existing ones? And… what about the fact that testing on laboratory animals may not be able to accurately simulate or predict what happens with a human or other animals? And…what about the fact that they are unable to predict long-term effects that could result from an altered chemical environment?
BioVeda of Vacaville’s article raises an important issue with regard to GMOs and allergies. Genetically Modified Organisms have been speculated to cause allergic reactions in people who previously did not show sensitivity to the product in question. The Center for Food Safety offers the following explanation for this phenomenon in their article “Ah-tchoo! Do genetically modified foods cause allergies?“:
Genetically modified food has genes from other plants or animals inserted into its genetic structure. Scientists and environmental and health advocates have long been concerned that this practice could stimulate allergies in humans. The argument goes like this: If you are allergic to fish, and you eat a genetically modified organism tomato that includes genes from a fish, might you have an allergic reaction if you eat the tomato? A 2002 Journal of Anatomy article denies it: “No direct evidence that [GMO] food may represent a possible danger for health has been reported so far; however, the scientific literature in this field is quite poor.” Only a few GMO crops (soy, corn and canola) have been widely planted and truly infiltrated the American food supply, and there have not been any widespread documented allergies to those foods.
A 1999 study of farmworkers who worked with bioengineered corn found elevated levels of proteins that were related to known allergens in their blood. These and other exposed farmworkers have shown higher than normal skin irritation skin irritation, asthma and “rhinitus” (runny noses)–all classic allergic reactions. Studies were never repeated on those subjects to prove that the allergies were due to the GMOs or some other factor. Tests on mice that have ingested genetically modified corn found increased immune responses when compared to traditional corn.
Genetically Modified Organisms offer a unique challenge to a person’s battle against allergies and attempt to find allergy relief. It certainly makes it more difficult to define the true cause of a food allergy if you don’t know what you’re really eating.