April 1, 2001
FDA Develops Allergy Test for StarLink Corn
WASHINGTON--After months of research, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed an allergy test to be used on blood samples from people claiming allergic reactions to genetically-engineered StarLink corn, it was reported by the Washington Post;. However, researchers told the paper that because the test has not been fully checked, definitive answers might not be possible. (Calls to FDA for comment or confirmation were not returned at press time.)
The Post noted that FDA officials said they were far enough along in the testing process to collect blood samples from people who claimed allergic reactions at the time of the StarLink contamination last fall. In all, it was reported that FDA received 48 claims of allergic reactions, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is looking primarily at the 35 that were reported before the November advisory committee meeting on the safety of StarLink corn.
The test would determine the presence of an antibody to Cry9C, the protein found in StarLink corn. "This is the first time a test like this has been developed, and nobody is claiming that it is a gold standard," said Karl Klontz, medical officer with FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), as quoted by the Associated Press. "But the presence of [the antibody] would suggest the possibility of an allergic phenomenon, and the lack of [the antibody] would go a long way to reassure that there is no allergic issue."
According to some biotech opponents, the results of the test could deal a major blow to consumer confidence in biotech foods. "The results of these allergy tests could have a significant impact on the future of genetically engineered foods," said Craig Winters, executive director of The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods. However, if the results do not show allergenicity, the biotech industry could gain credibility.
Also in the news about StarLink: Aventis now claims that the quantities of StarLink that likely penetrated the food supply are much greater than originally projected. The company previously stated that around 50 million bushels of corn might have been contaminated; Aventis now estimates that number to be more than 430 million bushels.
For more details on the allergy testing story, visit www.washingtonpost.com
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