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GMO Foods and the Rise in Allergies

Updated on August 2, 2012

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!

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    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Hi creativelycc: You're correct that changes need to be made. However, such changes will not be made until we, the people in charge of our government, demand the changes. These things continue to be repeated simply because we don't make enough noise about them. There are special interest groups who go to bat for us over the various issues, however, our government looks at them as simply annoying. These groups are only a threat because they can gather and disseminate information, but we, the individual voters, are the ones responsible for making change. Thank you for taking the time to comment and certainly for passing the information along to others.

    • creativelycc profile image

      Carrie L. Cronkite 5 years ago from Maine

      No wonder more and more are being diagnosed with cancer, allergies and other diseases. Our government seriously needs to make some changes before it is too late for many. My 24 year old daughter recently developed allergies and has had several visits to the ER over the past few months with her throat swelling. She never had any allergies as a child. Something is seriously wrong. Thank you for this hub, I'll pass it on.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      nityanandagaurang: Absolutely, you are correct. However, even our land is becoming tainted with chemicals from pesticides and other environmental toxins carelessly dumped by large corporations intent on saving a buck at the expense of the population. GM seeds are permitted to be planted in open fields with no precautions for keeping surrounding areas free of accidental contamination. Corporations that push genetic modification of foods are systematically working to remove all production of organics. The illnesses caused by consuming GM foods will need to be treated by drugs produced by these same biotech industries. That equals a lot of cash.

    • nityanandagaurang profile image

      nityanandagaurang 5 years ago

      The food that grow naturally from ground is best for heath.The genetically modified food is changing struture of item,which is actually interrupting the natural phenomenon of nature.Therefore rather being beneficial for people,these gm foods turn out harmful.Useful and voting it up.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 5 years ago from Pennsylvania


    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      The problem is that an established information source is's why the German's eventually thought that Jews were "inferior" in every way.

      Same thing now in America - but there isn't a true racial thing going on....more of a mindset preached that the purveyors of certainly do not agree to themselves.

      Basically, media seems to be selling gasoline and matches to two year olds to see whether or not they'll play with the two, and actually hoping that they do.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      @Eliminate Cancer, MummyDearest, and April:

      I've posted a reply to each of yours but it has failed to appear twice now. They were a bit lengthy and now I'm out of steam to rewrite them a third time. Thank you for your input, your additional information, and of course for sharing personal experiences. I appreciate you taking your time to contribute.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Absolutely, dead on, Wesman! There's more and more information becoming available through the internet and people need to start doing some research of their own. I never cease to be amazed at the ignorance displayed by those who parrot the nonsense fed to them by the corporate spokespersons assigned to downplay dangers in favor of profits. Thanks for stopping by as always.

    • profile image

      April 5 years ago

      All that inflamation over long term, cause's LEAKY GUT Syndrome . Which I have for at least 5 years now. All blood work allergies come back negative . It takes a different route . Also Arthritis from it, thyroid problems , chronic Fatigue , Depression, memory problems. Thanks to our gov. Who could care less what happens. And our Pres. Isn't worth a flip

    • MummyDearest profile image

      Eileen 5 years ago from Kildare, Ireland

      Thank you for such an informative hub. It is an eye opener indeed and I never took much notice about GM foods before. After reading your hub, it made me sit up and be more aware about what I buy or put into my mouth in future. Thank you.

    • Eliminate Cancer profile image

      Eliminate Cancer 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      GM foods are a serious problem. Not just for allergies, but all chronic conditions, including cancer. What is more scary, is that these foods aren't labeled, and they are ubiquitous in our packaged foods, so trying to avoid them is nearly impossible unless you know the source (a local farm) of all of your foods.

      The other danger, is that GMOs will cross-pollinate with other plants, and the genetic changes will cause mutations that we can't control. Perhaps that is why our government is so sluggish to pass legislation against it - it would be impossible to regulate and enforce.

      Additionally, it almost seems as if the US government is promoting GMOs... while other countries are banning them. There are plenty of online petitions to show your support for labeling GMOs, I urge everyone to take action before it's too late. A good place to start is The Center for Food Safety website:

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Doctors and those brilliant "scientist" we see have NO idea what these things will do, but what it really is :

      1. keeping people sick, and in need of big pharma meds

      2. thinning the herd the way Darwin spoke of - which only serves to justify superiority in the minds of the persons who promote such they surely don't eat it!

      Of course the population is a problem - the US military cost ever eight days what it would cost to feed all of the hungry in the world for a year.