Assessing genetically modified crops to minimize the risk of increased food allergy: A review

Richard E. Goodman, Susan L. Hefle, Steve L. Taylor, Ronald Van Ree

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The first genetically modified (GM) crops approved for food use (tomato and soybean) were evaluated for safety by the United States Food and Drug Administration prior to commercial production. Among other factors, those products and all additional GM crops that have been grown commercially have been evaluated for potential increases in allergenic properties using methods that are consistent with the current understanding of food allergens and knowledge regarding the prediction of allergenic activity. Although there have been refinements, the key aspects of the evaluation have not changed. The allergenic properties of the gene donor and the host (recipient) organisms are considered in determining the appropriate testing strategy. The amino acid sequence of the encoded protein is compared to all known allergens to determine whether the protein is a known allergen or is sufficiently similar to any known allergen to indicate an increased probability of allergic cross-reactivity. Stability of the protein in the presence of acid with the stomach protease pepsin is tested as a risk factor for food allergenicity. In vitro or in vivo human IgE binding are tested when appropriate, if the gene donor is an allergen or the sequence of the protein is similar to an allergen. Serum donors and skin test subjects are selected based on their proven allergic responses to the gene donor or to material containing the allergen that was matched in sequence. While some scientists and regulators have suggested using animal models, performing broadly targeted serum IgE testing or extensive pre- or post-market clinical tests, current evidence does not support these tests as being predictive or practical. Based on the evidence to date, the current assessment process has worked well to prevent the unintended introduction of allergens in commercial GM crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-166
Number of pages14
JournalInternational archives of allergy and immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Allergenicity
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biotechnology
  • Genetically modified crops
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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