Stacked GM allergies

November 2016
Photo Creative Commons
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has many fine words to say about the need for transparency in the science relating to GM safety issues, but it has some difficulty, it seems, in matching the words with action [1].

A recent EFSA Opinion on a multiple-stacked-trait GM for food and feed use was published on 26th August 2016, during the quiet European summer holiday period.

The Authority's GMO panel had every reason to anticipate controversy over this Syngenta GM maize. It has no less than five artificial DNA constructs comprising five 'Bt' insecticide-generating genes, three genes for tolerance to glufosinate herbicide, a gene for tolerance to glyphosate herbicide and a selection marker gene, plus of course all the various artificial promoters and DNA bits and pieces needed to make the ten novel genes work.

Adding to the EFSA's problems was that, three months earlier, one panel member with dissenting views decided to issue a Minority Opinion. And worse, the Minority Opinion came from an allergy specialist, Jean-Michel Wal, whose concerns attach to the potential for allergenic interactions between so many novel proteins together in one melting pot.

The EFSA decided that Syngenta's GM maize was safe by extrapolating from data based on single genetic transformations. These were fed into a weight-of-evidence based conclusion. Wal pointed out that, in reality, 20 genetic sub-combinations would arise each with its own allergenic potential. No data were presented on these. The missing information represents a huge number of unknown outcomes which could well shift the weight-of-evidence conclusion in the opposite direction.

The dissenting allergy specialist said:
"Allergenic reactions in general and consequently food allergy are dramatically increasing in the EU (and worldwide) and have become a most important public health issue. The reasons are unclear ... " 
There appears, however, to be a specialist consensus that environmental conditions and cultivated plant species are involved.


Lack of transparency can, it seems take many forms: hiding tha data from scrutiny [1]; publication timed to reach a minimal audience; and simply not requiring that comprehensive data be produced.

Now you know. There's a member of the EFSA GMO Panel who has officially raised concerns about the basis of the EU approval procedure and about a major health issue applying to all multiple-trait, latest generation GM crops. Use this support to demand testing of all the permutations of the stacked-gene GM crops we could be exposed to.


[1] AHH ... TRANSPARENCY - November 2016


EFSA GMO Panel member warns of health risks from Syngenta GM maize, GM Watch 10.09.16, summary of two articles in subscription-only EU Food Policy: GMOs - Fresh turmoil as EFSA publishes minority safety verdict- quesitons about Syngenta maize safety (August 2016) and EFSA GMO expert disagrees with published summary (September 2016)

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