Kimberly Schneider's picture
Hi this is Kimberly Schneider again. I wanted a clear concise answer to my question about the substantial increase in food allergies over the years due to the gmos. I would prefer that the person who answers my question not be employed directly by Monsanto. I'm not a lawyer, so please don't force me to decode the answer given to me. Thanks.

A:Expert Answer

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.

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Comments

WillingToListen's picture

I took his answer to mean that they don't really know (or cannot prove) what is causing the increase in food allergies. I think GMOs have been around for 20 years. Is that how long food allergies have been increasing? (I haven't seen the statistics.) I have heard that it could be caused by food dye, natural increases in sensitivities to the world around us or our need to be excessively clean (http://fooddrugallergy.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=40).

WheatLover's picture

I two things of note from Dan Goldstein's answer to your question Kim.

The first is that even if food related hospitalizations have increased over the past decade, only 1 of the 8 major food allergens is a GMO crop, Soybeans. And even then soybean allergies are not as common as peanut and tree nut allergies. This would suggest that most food related hospitalizations are the result of people consuming non-GMO food (or food that was badly prepared in the case of food poisoning cases).

The 2nd thing I got from Dan's answer was that the data you gave showing the 265% increase was misleading because it counted every use of a diagnostic code for a food allergy, but did not distinguish if the food allergy was the actual cause of hospitalizations, or if it was just a note of a known pre-existing condition.

Alex Rauber's picture

the work of professor graham le gros on allergens and histamine responses looks into the lack of histamine antagonist leading to increased sensitivity, basically cotton wool kid theory

Marge Lessard's picture

I am a consumer, not a doctor, lawyer, or industry expert. I believe the increased peanut and gluten (wheat) allergies are related to the way these crops are grown and harvested. Largely, we mono-crop; grow one crop year after year in the soil, rather than using crop rotation to allow the soil to remain healthy. In Arkansas, where I live, cotton and peanuts are an exception. (See: http://farmflavor.com/us-ag/alabama/top-agriculture-products/peanut-crop...) Cotton (GMO) is grown, sprayed with Roundup for weed control, then after harvested, peanuts are planted in the pesticide-soaked (Roundup) soil.

Wheat (not GMO) is more and more frequently harvested after being sprayed with Roundup. (See: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/real-reason-for-toxic-wheat-its-n...)

The reason Round-Up is an issue is its ingredient glyphosate. RoundUp “ kills weeds because glyphosate (a salt compound) inhibits enzyme pathways, preventing plants from synthesizing amino acids necessary for growth. Basically it's a poison that we are now regularly ingesting. (See: http://www.infowars.com/is-monsantos-roundup-glyphosate-the-new-agent-or...).

I question whether the food intolerance and allergies are food related or Roundup related.

Community Manager's picture

Hi Marge, thanks for contributing to the discussion on GMO Answers! We invite you to submit any questions you might have at http://www.gmoanswers.com/ask. Also you might be interested to check out some of the posts in our Studies & Articles section (http://www.gmoanswers.com/studies) and in other Q&A that are related to your comments.

Dr. Steve Savage discusses monoculture in this post (http://gmoanswers.com/studies/do-gmo-crops-foster-monoculture), and this post provides context to the claim that glyphosate used on wheat, which isn't currently available as a GM crop (http://gmoanswers.com/studies/addressing-claims-glyphosate-contributes-t...). Also, Dr. Xioahua Yang mentions how glyphosate works on plants in this post (http://gmoanswers.com/ask/gmo-crops-modified-pesticide-resistance-how-bred).

Again, thanks so much for your comment, and we look forward to answering any questions you may have!

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