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GMOs and food Allergies: Are genetically modified crops contributing to the rise in food allergies?

"How complex is the relationship between food allergies and GMOs, especially, in genetic engineering and DNA's role in protein synthesis?" - Benson K.

GMOs and food Allergies: Are genetically modified crops contributing to the rise in food allergies?

Photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash

For health reasons, people often worry about what they eat, how it is made, and where the food originates. Scientists are getting crafty with our food by tweaking its DNA, resulting in the creation of GMOs. Advancements in technology have enabled scientists to improve the DNA by introducing specific genes into crops to enhance desirable traits like resistance to pests or tolerance to rough environmental conditions. Despite these positive objectives, there have been concerns raised about allergies in relation to GMOs.

Understanding How Allergic Reactions Happen

Allergic food reactions represent a type of dysfunctional immune response to allergens, which often constitute proteins. However, the human body can experience a bit of a mix-up and start mistaking certain proteins as sneaky intruders, like pesky germs. What happens next is that it sets off an allergic alarm. Special IgE antibodies spot those proteins and sound the histamine alarm. Consequently, a rollercoaster of mild to wild allergic reactions and all sorts of symptoms occur.

For instance, one can experience rashes or anaphylaxis. The underlying mechanisms behind allergic food reactions provide insights into the potential correlation and causation between GMOs and the occurrence of allergic reactions. Since GMOs production alters the proteins present in food, the DNA modifications could potentially contribute to the rise in food allergies.


GMOs Might Introduce New Proteins in Food Crops

Through genetic alterations, GMOs have potential to introduce novel proteins into the food supply. This aspect of GMOs is significant when examining their potential impact on food allergies. As was the case for GM soybean that introduced protein from Brazil nuts, studies show that genetic modifications in crops can lead to the production of proteins that were not present in their non-modified counterparts. These 'fancy' new proteins found in genetically modified crops could potentially cause allergies.

The presence of new proteins in GMOs raises legitimate concerns. You can correctly assume that GMOs have increased the incidence of food allergies. Evaluating the introduction of new proteins through genetic modification sheds light on their potential allergenicity and contribution to the growing prevalence of food allergies.

GMOs Can lead to Cross-Reactivity

Cross-reactivity between genetically modified crops and known allergens emerges as a significant cause for concern. The genetic alterations in crops through GMOs may introduce proteins that bear structural similarities to known allergenic proteins. There are instances where proteins found in genetically modified crops exhibit resemblances to known allergens.

Therefore, the probability of cross-reactivity is high when the immune system mistakenly identifies a similar protein as the original allergen. To evaluate the role of GMOs in the rising incidence of food allergies, we should understand their potential for cross-reactivity. The phenomenon could ultimately inform decisions regarding their cultivation, regulation, and consumption.


Safeguards to Prevent Harmful Impacts

To ensure the safety of genetically modified crops, rigorous testing protocols and regulations are in place. Prior to their commercial release, GMOs undergo extensive evaluation to assess their potential allergenicity. This includes analyzing the introduced genes and their protein products for similarities to known allergens.

In a notable case, a transgene from a tree nut was identified in a genetically modified crop, leading to the immediate suspension of GMO production.

These incidents emphasize the significance of enforcing safeguards to prevent the introduction of allergens into GMOs. Adhering to strict testing procedures, scientists and regulatory bodies can minimize the risks associated with genetically modified crops and their potential impact on food allergies.

READ ALSO: The pros and cons of GMOs: Benefits and potential risks for human health

Summary of Current Evidence

The scientific evidence available is good news for all GMO skeptics. There is no solid proof that GMOs have caused a spike in food allergies. Responsible stakeholders have taken this concern seriously and continue to conduct rigorous studies to check if genetically modified crops could potentially trigger allergies. Similarly, regulatory agencies have stepped in too to set up strict testing rules to make sure GMOs are safe, especially when it comes to checking the special proteins they produce.

What's more, not a single confirmed case of an allergic reaction has been tied directly to consuming GMOs. When crops undergo genetic modification, allergenicity testing is specifically mandated to assess the potential risk of introducing allergens. Conventional plant breeding and mutational breeding techniques can also lead to the unintentional introduction of allergenic proteins.


It is evident that the current scientific research does not establish a direct link between GMOs and the rise in food allergies. Research suggests that GMOs are as likely to cause allergies as their non-GMO counterparts. In any case, you are less likely to have an allergic reaction from eating GMOs. Conversely, there exists evidence suggesting potential ways GMOs 'could' contribute to allergic reactions.

READ ALSO: Labeling GMOs: Should consumers have the right to know if their food contains GMOs?

Extensive testing protocols have been designed to ensure the safety of genetically modified crops and thoroughly assess potential allergenicity and halt risky GMO production. Prioritizing food labeling and allergen awareness is essential to protect individuals with known allergies. By staying informed and supporting further research, we can better understand the impact of GMOs on food allergies and work towards a safer and healthier food system.

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