Food Allergies - Influence of Biotechnology - Part II

Transfer of known allergenic proteins in new foods

Genetic engineering of food involves the transfer of genes from one organism to another. Genes code for proteins, and because all allergens are proteins there is a potential for an allergen to be transferred to a non-allergenic food source. This was demonstrated when a protein from the Brazil nut was transferred to soybeans (5).

Soybeans are deficient in methionine, and the Brazil nut protein was transferred into the soybean to correct for that deficiency. However, it was determined that the Brazil nut protein transferred into soybeans, was in fact the major allergen from Brazil nuts (5). These particular soybeans were never commercialized. The allergenic protein was identified by its reactivity with serum containing IgE antibodies from individuals with well documented allergies to the source material, which in this case was the Brazil nut (5). This is one type of assessment used whenever a gene is transferred from a known allergenic source. However, genes typically are not transferred from known allergenic sources.

The assessment of the allergenicity of foods produced through agricultural biotechnology will be discussed shortly.