Genetically modified foods have been controversial in both Europe and the United States, with oversight non-profit groups such as Food and Water Watch concerned that these foods can cause unexpected illness or health problems after being modified. While the FDA does not require genetically modified foods to be labeled, last week Whole Foods announced they would add labels to genetically modified foods. There are approximately multiple bills pending in different U.S. state legislatures that would require genetically modified foods to be labeled. In the European Union genetically modified foods are required to be labeled.
In spite of these concerns, scientists have continued to create new food products by splicing together proteins and genes that have resulted in products as diverse as fast-growing salmon with genetic material from eels to heartier soy bean crops.
While scientists work to develop hypo-allergenic foods, there is a chance even if they eliminate problematic proteins through genetic modification or traditional farming methods they could still cause allergic reactions. Bruce Chassy, professor emeritus at the Department for Food Science at the University of Illinois, says that the scientists will have to be careful to test their final products for unexpected allergens. Even if they get rid of the main proteins that cause allergic reactions, customers could develop allergies to other formerly safe proteins and researchers could end up back at the drawing board.
"You don't want to mislead people, there's no such thing as a hypoallergenic apple," said Chassy. "Someone can come along and be allergic to another protein."
Editors Note: A previous version of this article miscast the current work of Dr. Alessandro Botton. He is now researching naturally-occurring hypo-allergenic proteins, not genetically modified food.