So why are we seeing a dramatic increase in allergies? Some health experts believe that it could be, in part, due to the recent introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods. If evidence from around the world is anything to go by, there may be a case to answer.
In 1999, the York Laboratory in the U.K tested 4,500 people for allergies reactions and sensitivities. In previous years soy had affected 10% of consumers. In 1999, that figure skyrocketed 50% after GM soy from the U.S started to arrive in the U.K provoking public angst over GM foods. When massive protests followed, supermarkets started removing GM foods from sale and the rapid increase in anaphylaxis in children aged 0-14 stabilised.
But why should GM foods be implicated in the rise in allergies? GM critics believe that the inherent cross-species nature of biotechnology may be responsible. GM foods are created by splicing genes from the DNA of one organism into the DNA of another possibly unrelated organism. In experiments, strawberries have been spliced with fish genes, rice and tobacco with human genes and even lettuce with rat genes. Since genes are the instruction codes for proteins, and proteins are implicated in allergic reactions, GM foods may be introducing allergenic proteins into our food that have never before been part of the human food supply.
The litany of allergenic reactions to GM foods grows daily. A gene from a Brazil nut was inserted into soybeans with tests verifying that people allergic to Brazil nuts were allergic to the GM soybean . A GM corn, considered allergenic by the U.S EPA was approved as animal feed, yet it contaminated the human food supply and thousands reported health effects, some life-threatening . A GM pea produced by the CSIRO induced an allergic-type inflammatory response in mice, yet the same protein when produced naturally in beans, had no effect .