Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Are GMO foods More Allergenic?

As if there wasn't reason enough to avoid genetically modified foods. There's evidence they're more prone to cause allergic reactions. Read it here: http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/09/genetically-engineered-salmon-allergies

Here's the nut of it:

In order to understand the allergy tests, a bit of backstory on how AquAdvantage salmon are made is necessary. First, genetic engineers create a "diploid" fish, meaning like people, it has two sets of chromosomes. Then, to make the final market product, they add genetic material from other fish and breed a new salmon with three sets of chromosomes—a "triploid" female that can't reproduce. AquaBounty researchers compared the allergenicity—or potential to cause an allergic reaction—of a control group of salmon to both the genetically engineered diploids and triploids. They found (PDF, see page 102) that the diploid salmon were 40 percent more allergenic than the control, while the triploid group was 19 percent more allergenic.

AquaBounty says that the triploids' allergenicity level wasn't statistically significant, and although the diploids' level is significant, it doesn't matter because only triploids will be sold. But Hansen of the Consumers Union finds a few problems with this argument. For starters, the test wasn't double blind, meaning the researchers knew which fish were part of which test group. Second, the sample size of triploid fish was tiny—only six fish in all. Third, although AquaBounty is going to try to turn all its market-bound fish into triploid sterile females, the process isn't perfect, and some 5 percent could end up as the more allergenic diploid. Especially scary when you consider that unlike the triploids, the diploids aren't sterile. So if they escaped, they could breed with wild salmon.


  1. When I read French Women Don't Get Fat I was struck by something Mireille Guiliano said: that food intolerances and allergies (not to mention dislikes) were far less common in France (and probably the rest of Europe) than in the U.S. I can't help but think that has a lot to do with the fact that our food supply has been tinkered with for years. I'm over 60 -- and I remember extremely few people having food allergies when I was growing up.

  2. The comment above rang a bell for me. I have always wondered if it was just anecdotal, the way we remember grade school as almost no one with food allergies. Of course it's the food tinkering! This is one of the scariest things I've read about food supply manipulation.

  3. Wosnes, I haven't read French Women Don't Get Fat yet, but it's on my reading list. I agree that food allergies tend to be more common here then in the rest of the world, and that they now seem to be everywhere. It is quite possible that by straying from natural to unnatural foods, we may have done something to trigger all these allergic reactions.

    The other problem is, of course, that here in America we are also exposed to far more environmental toxins, so that may have a role in it as well.