The European Food Safety Authority’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Panel has adopted a scientific opinion to determine the potential for an allergic reaction by genetically modified plants and microorganisms and derived food and feed.

EFSA wants to ensure that its risk assessment reflects the most current scientific data and addresses the widest range of concerns from various groups.

During a 10 week public consultation, EFSA received 181 comments mostly addressing how to properly implement the general approach to identify allergens in GMOs. The comments came from 17 interested parties including national assessment bodies, non-governmental organizations, business associations, universities, and individual consumers.

Recommendations in the opinion are included to update and complement EFSA’s assessment of allergens in GM plants and microorganisms and derived food and feed.

It is possible that GM food and feed could contain proteins which may cause food allergies in both people and animals. Because of this, EU legislation requires that the possibility of allergens in GMOs and food and feed derived from GMOs be assessed before these products are placed on the market.

EFSA’s GMO Panel initiated the process in order to update the current assessment procedures based on the most recent scientific data. Although there is no exact science or single test on how to assess the possibility of allergens in GMOs, the Panel concluded that a case by case evaluation based on the weight of evidence is the most appropriate approach.

“In the opinion, the Panel describes how to analyze the sequence of the proteins in order to identify possible similarities with known allergens; how to test the potential of the proteins to bind with specific antibodies (suggesting they could trigger an allergic reaction); and how to assess the breakdown of the protein during digestion. In addition to assessing the new protein, the Panel recommends that for crops known to be allergenic, the whole GM plant is tested for allergens,” the EFSA stated in a press release.

The full text of the EFSA opinion can be accessed on the agency’s Website.