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Unformatted text preview: DOI: 10.1093/jxb/erg164 PLANT CULTURE: SEARCHING QUESTIONS Genetically modified soybeans and food allergies Eliot M. Herman 1 Plant Genetics Unit, USDA/ARS, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, 975 N. Warson Road, St Louis, MO 63132, USA Received 3 March 2003; Accepted 10 March 2003 ABSTRACT Allergenic reactions to proteins expressed in GM crops has been one of the prominent concerns among bio- technology critics and a concern of regulatory agen- cies. Soybeans like many plants have intrinsic allergens that present problems for sensitive people. Current GM crops, including soybean, have not been shown to add any additional allergenic risk beyond the intrinsic risks already present. Biotechnology can be used to characterize and eliminate allergens naturally present in crops. Biotechnology has been used to remove a major allergen in soybean demonstrating that genetic modification can be used to reduce aller- genicity of food and feed. This provides a model for further use of GM approaches to eliminate allergens. Key words: Allergenic reactions, genetic modification, soybeans. Allergenicity of plant products is a wide-spread problem Public awareness and concern about food allergens is growing. Concerns about food allergens have become linked to the application of biotechnology to produce genetically engineered crops and has resulted in many regulatory proposals and regulations (see Anonymous, 2002, for example, by the Royal Society). Food allergies result from the exposure of predisposed individuals to an allergen and, once sensitized, further exposure can result in escalating adverse responses. The most common allergenic responses are atopic reactions in the form of hives and other skin responses and gastric distress, but severe reactions can result in death from anaphylaxis. As the awareness of food allergies has grown so has the public perception of the size of the sensitive population. True food allergies are an immunological response and occur in about 2% of the adult population and 58% of young children. The remaining cases of food allergy are often due to other dietary difficulties such as lactose intolerance, that is, an enzyme deficiency rather than an allergy. Several different proposals have been presented to explain the apparent perception of the increased incidence of food allergies, among which is the hygiene hypothesis. This suggests that cleaner modern life-styles result in fewer immunological challenges at an early age which in turn results in increased sensitivity to other immunological challenges leading to food allergies amongst its effects. Food allergies do have a genetic component exhibited in multiple generations of some families....
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