Will genetically modified foods be allergenic?

Steve L. Taylor, Susan L. Hefle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Foods produced through agricultural biotechnology, including such staples as corn, soybeans, canola, and potatoes, are already reaching the consumer marketplace. Agricultural biotechnology offers the promise to produce crops with improved agronomic characteristics (eg, insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, and climatic tolerance) and enhanced consumer benefits (eg, better taste and texture, longer shelf life, and more nutritious). Certainly, the products of agricultural biotechnology should be subjected to a careful and complete safety assessment before commercialization. Because the genetic modification ultimately results in the introduction of new proteins into the food plant, the safety, including the potential allergenicity, of the newly introduced proteins must be assessed. Although most allergens are proteins, only a few of the many proteins found in foods are allergenic under the typical circumstances of exposure. The potential allergenicity of the introduced proteins can be evaluated by focusing on the source of the gene, the sequence homology of the newly introduced protein to known allergens, the expression level of the novel protein in the modified crop, the functional classification of the novel protein, the reactivity of the novel protein with IgE from the serum of individuals with known allergies to the source of the transferred genetic material, and various physicochemical properties of the newly introduced protein, such as heat stability and digestive stability. Few products of agricultural biotechnology (and none of the current products) will involve the transfer of genes from known allergenic sources. Applying such criteria provides reasonable assurance that the newly introduced protein has limited capability to become an allergen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-771
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number5 SUPPL.
StatePublished - May 2001


  • Allergy
  • Biotechnology
  • Classification
  • Digestion
  • Exposure
  • Food
  • Heat stability
  • Sequence homology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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