WASHINGTON, March 17, 2015 - Richard Goodman, a research professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told a National Research Council panel last week that genetically-engineered foods should raise no more concerns about food allergies than other food products.

“All foods create risks for somebody,” Goodman said, noting that 2 percent to 4 percent of adults in the U.S. and 4 to 8 percent of children have some sort of food allergy.

The panel, which is studying GE crops and foods, also heard from Jason Dietz, a policy analyst with the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Food Safety. He said FDA has “not seen a particular food from a GE plant that has raised a safety issue, or a hypothesis of a safety issue” and has found “no adverse health effects attributed to GE food.”

According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. The timing of the increase correlates with the rise in biotech crop production, but most researchers say that does not prove GE crops are causing more allergies.

Goodman said eight types of food account for 90 percent of food allergies: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. He said the processing of allergens in various food product -- where it may not be obvious that the allergen is present -- “presents much greater risks to allergic people than genetic modification.”

Goodman also cited the results of a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that children who were introduced to peanuts early in their diets were less likely to form an allergy to the food than children who were not The prevalence of peanut allergy among children in Western countries has doubled in the past 10 years, the study noted.

“Doctors have been telling parents to avoid peanuts until they are 4-years-old…and we’ve seen the allergy go up and up,” Goodman said. “The increase may be partly due to premature medical advice to avoid certain allergenic foods.”

Dietz noted that there is no “definitive test” that can predict the allergic response in humans to new proteins in the food supply, but he said he believes the FDA has a “reliable approach” to protect the public.”

That approach includes considering the source of the new protein and whether it is known as an allergenic, comparing the amino acid sequence of the new protein to known allergens, and assessing the key nutrients, anti-nutrients and toxicants in the protein.

The nonprofit Food Allergy Research and Education says more than 15 million Americans and 17 million Europeans have food allergies.


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