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GE foods need clinical testing for allergies

16 July 2000

GE foods need clinical testing for allergies

All genetically engineered foods on the market should be clinically tested to see if they cause allergies following a UN report on the safety of genetically engineered foods, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today.

Last month's UN report recognised that food allergies can cause severe and even life-threatening reactions, and said all genetically engineered foods need to be properly assessed for potential allergenicity.

The report said all genetically engineered food containing transferred genes from sources which are known to be allergenic should undergo clinical testing.

But Ms Kedgley said all foods which have been genetically engineered should be clinically tested. Modified potato, corn, canola and soybean products which have undergone no clinical or long-term testing are all on sale in New Zealand.

"Standard allergy tests such as simple skin or blood serum tests need to be carried out on all genetically engineered foods, as that's the only way to know whether they may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Food allergies affect two per cent of the population, and up to eight per cent of children under three.

"While allergies may only affect between two and eight per cent of the population, allergic reactions can be severe and even life-threatening. I am particularly concerned that children may be most at risk," she said.

"In Britain soy allergies increased by 50 per cent in 1998, about the time when Roundup Ready soy first infiltrated the market. We simply don't know whether these two events were linked, but thorough allergenicity testing and a good labelling system would make consumers feel a lot safer."

Ms Kedgley said some genes being added to food were derived from plants and animals which were not normally eaten by humans, such as leeches, mice, daffodils and toads.

"The only way of finding out if people are allergic to these new proteins is by carrying out full clinical trials and long-term testing. Otherwise we're just blundering ahead in the dark."

Sue Kedgley MP: 025 270 9088 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: 04 470 6723 or 021 1265 289

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