Do GMOs Cause Allergies?
The entrance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the food industry has raised many concerns over the years. One of them is the potential of GMOs to cause allergies. According to the latest research, however, this danger seems to be unlikely. In contrast, the benefits of continuing GMO crop studies and experiments can lead to the improvement of allergy-inducing foods. To increase the safety of GMOs and eliminate the risk of allergies, the food industry can take several precautions during production and packaging.
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It is necessary to look at evidence that refutes the claims against GMO foods. Porterfield notes that the rate of food allergies has increased in the last 30 years. However, this number is not connected to GMOs by scientists, who introduce different hypotheses instead. First of all, foods that cause the majority of allergies do not have a genetically modified version. These include peanuts, milk, and eggs – only a small number of studies aim to modify these foods to make them less allergic (Porterfield).
Other products are wheat, soy, and tree nuts; these crops can be genetically modified. Nonetheless, experiments with GMOs show that the allergy source in such foods comes from incorrectly transferred protein that possesses allergic properties (Porterfield). All known trials involving negative results were stopped, and their products did not reach shelves.
Second, one should mention that GMO foods have the potential of lowering the number of allergies since researchers can try to remove allergy-causing elements from these products. Xu provides an example of gluten-free wheat, modified for people with a gluten allergy. In this case, the version of wheat that was not genetically modified is inferior to a GMO in its safety and accessibility. Thus, currently available evidence does not support the claim of GMOs, causing an increase in allergies.
While the danger of GMOs affecting natural biodiversity should not be dismissed, genetic modification can also provide a solution to this problem. As Landry points out, the primary adverse outcome of GMOs lowering the survivability of GMO crops is their identical gene combination. Thus, if one attempts to overcome this issue in producing GMO foods, the future of biodiversity may change without the need to stop GMO research.
Some scientists are focusing on ways to curb the impact of GMO crops on species living in the natural environment. Making some organisms infertile is an option that may stop crossbreeding and ensure that modified genes are not entering the genetic pool (Landry). Nevertheless, this approach also complicates the production of foods since it eliminates the option of using the same crops several times. Therefore, while it may help protect genetic diversity in the short term, it can damage the food supply.
Another strategy for acknowledging the problem of diversity is based on improving the process of genetic modification. Piaggio et al. argue that the obstacle of GMOs containing a similar set of traits can be overcome by diversifying the pool of used genes (97).
In this case, the solution lies in preserving biodiversity through both natural and synthetic means. Using this approach, scientists can collaborate to increase the success of species’ conservation by developing complex GMOs that would not cause a situation similar to the 1800s Irish famine. As Piaggio et al. point out, the current efforts to preserve natural genomes are not successful enough to preserve biodiversity (98). Assistance from synthetic biology, which has the opportunity to modify the genes in many ways, may attempt to overcome this issue.
Landry, Heather. “Challenging Evolution: How GMOs Can Influence Genetic Diversity.” Science in the News. 2015. Web.
Piaggio, Antoinette J., et al. “Is It Time for Synthetic Biodiversity Conservation?” Trends in Ecology & Evolution, vol. 32, no. 2, 2017, pp. 97-107.
Porterfield, Andrew. “Why GMOs Aren’t Responsible for a Spike in Food Allergies.” Genetic Literacy Project. 2019. Web.
Xu, Charles. “Nothing to Sneeze at: The Allergenicity of GMOs.” Science in the News. 2015. Web.