GMO Foods and the Rise in Allergies
With 15 million people suffering from various food allergies, the topic is one of growing public health concern. There are an estimated 9 million (4%) of adults and 6 million (8%) of children who suffer from food allergies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study in 2008 showing an 18% increase in food allergies in the years between 1997 and 2007.
Another discovery is the fact that childhood allergies to milk, eggs, wheat, and soy, which in the past, were usually resolved relatively quickly, are now taking longer to do so. Many children are still allergic beyond the 5 year age marker. Allergies associated to peanuts, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios) have mostly always been lifelong allergies. These eight foods already listed, account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions.
Also according to the CDC, there are more than 300,000 ambulatory care visits per year in children under the age of 18. During the years 2004-2006 there were more than 9,500 hospital discharges with a diagnosis related to food allergy for the age group. A very serious allergic reaction that is closely associated with food allergies is that of anaphylaxis. It is the leading cause of food allergy hospitalizations and it can kill if it isn't treated within moments of onset. Teenagers and young adults are at the highest risk of fatal food-induced anaphylaxis. There are over 200,000 emergency department visits every year by both adults and children, who suffer food allergy reactions. That's about one every 3 minutes.
If you or your child develop a food allergy, you can bet it won't be the only allergy you suffer. Children with food allergies are 2-4 times more likely to have another related condition like asthma, than children without any food allergies. Those who have both food allergies and asthma are at increased risk for severe/fatal allergic reactions.
It doesn't take much food for an allergen to cause a reaction, either. What's so surprising is that most allergic reactions occurred to foods previously thought to be safe. And while reactions can often be attributed to mislabeling on a food product or cross-contamination during the food preparation, scientists and health providers are beginning to take a serious look at another possible culprit – Genetically Engineered food (GM or GMO's).
The first time the issue of GM related allergies became a concern was in 1996 when researchers showed transfer of a major allergen from Brazil nuts into soybeans. The transfer triggered allergic reactions in individuals who already had a pre-existing allergy to Brazil nuts. Scientists and other consumer groups began pushing for comprehensive testing for the potential allergenicity of GM foods.
In 2005, the private research institute, CSIRO Plant Industry, discovered that a GM pea designed to fight pea weevils caused an immune response in mice. At first, long-term laboratory and field tests over several years conveyed the belief that the new peas were harmless to humans and animals, though they were 99.5% resistant to pea weevils. It wasn't until the final stages of testing that the discovery for potential harm was found.
A gene from a kidney bean had been transferred into the peas, bringing about the production of a new protein. Even though the transferred gene had come from a bean, a close relative of the pea, the protein was made differently in its new environment. Mice fed the GM peas had elevated levels of antibodies in their bloodstreams. The lungs of those mice treated with an aerosol made from GM peas showed above average levels of inflammation. It was deduced that humans could potentially have similar allergic reactions when exposed to the GM peas.
With confirmation of the potential for new allergies and possible repercussions to human health, a demand for more astringent testing over the long term arose. The outcry has fallen on deaf ears. The pervading assumption persists that since there's no proof of harm to humans (maintaining that animal models do not accurately reflect human reaction), there's no need to waste time and money on testing. Corporations like Monsanto, who have made billions off of their GM foods, have made concerted efforts to block legislation that would require further testing, going so far as to infiltrate government agencies with the tenacity of CIA agent spies. They have spent millions on lobby efforts to block mandatory labeling of GM foods, and have succeeded so far, to the dismay of Americans who feel their right to know what they're ingesting is being denied.
As recently as this past December, Monsanto has managed to receive approval for a controversial strain of GM corn. More than 45,000 organizations and people presented their concerns to the US Department of Agriculture, presented an opposition letter containing over 6,000 signatures, and a consolidated document of 22,500 comments in opposition. There were only 21 comments in support presented to the USDA. As is the usual case with GMO's, the new corn hasn't been independently peer reviewed or tested. In spite of the outcry from citizens, the USDA granted approval.
To date, it's been estimated that 80% of our food supply has been supplanted with GMO's and 50% of the foods in our grocery stores contain a GM ingredient. Without proper labeling, those of us who suffer from food allergies are at a great disadvantage and an even greater risk of serious health implications. Imagine eating a strawberry, something you've eaten a thousand times before, only to go into anaphalactic shock because it contained the gene of a fish, something you are highly allergic to. You won't know why you're sick and health professionals will have to guess at what has caused the reaction.
For further reading, I've listed some links to other studies of GM foods, done by independent laboratories. There are also links to news articles pertaining to the concerns of both scientists, researchers, and consumers.
***Stop Monsanto from spreading their GM corn. They are currently in negotiations with Walmart. Sign the petition to let Walmart how you feel about it! http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/genetically-engineered-foods/ge-sweet-corn/act-now/
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