Thanks for the opportunity to answer your question and address some concerns.
Food allergies are mainly caused by eight major foods (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish) and account for about 90% of reported food allergies in the US. First, it is important to note that only one of these eight major allergens listed above is a potential product of biotechnology and that is soy. Of the remaining seven allergens listed, none are commercially available in genetically modified varieties.
Peanuts are said to contribute to 15,000 visits to the emergency room each year by themselves. Additionally, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network report that approximately three million people claim allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, and studies show the number of children living with peanut allergies have tripled between 1997 and 2008. It is important to emphasize again that peanuts are not, nor have they ever been, a product of biotechnology.
Now to address soy, the only biotech product listed among the eight major allergens: As far back as 1992 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the primary agency responsible for oversight of these foods, published a policy statement regarding its role in regulating new plant varieties. In this policy statement, FDA posed several safety questions that must be addressed by developers of biotech crops including:
- whether any plant toxicants are present,
- if the nutrient content of the plant is changed in anyway, and
- also if any allergens have been introduced into the new plant.
There are straight forward tests that scientists can use to immediately determine if they are working with one of the allergenic proteins listed above when identifying desired traits in plants. No company or researcher would want to introduce an allergen into a plant if there wasn't one there before. To date, this has never happened and no reported cases of allergies have been documented as a result of using biotechnology.
Soy and soy products can still cause reactions in those with soy allergies whether the original product was grown by conventional means or through biotechnology. Federal food labeling regulations now allow for manufacturers to use the common and usual names of the eight major allergens on the ingredient facts panel, thereby enabling food allergic consumers to easily identify foods containing known allergens.