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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK
GM soya 'eliminates allergies'
The GM soya is currently growing in Hawaii
The allergy inducing ingredients of soya have been successfully removed by scientists through genetic modification.

They have hailed the move as an example of how GM technology can make food safer for people.

Soya allergy mostly affects children under the age of five. However, a small proportion of adults are also affected.


The research needs to look closely at the unexpected effects of turning on or off genes

Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth
About two-thirds of all manufactured food contains derivatives or ingredients made from soya.

These include chocolate, breakfast cereals, ice cream, sweets and margarine.

Any allergy mostly shows up as a hives, itchy skin and diarrhoea. However, in some cases it can trigger a more severe reaction.

Allergy gene

But researchers at the US Department of Agriculture and biotechnology company Pioneer Hi-Bred International say they may have found a way around the problem.

They have successfully removed the P34 gene from soybeans. This gene is believed to trigger most soya-related allergic reactions.

Soybeans without this gene have been growing in Hawaii for the past year.

The scientists tricked the soybean plant to stop it producing the P34 gene.

They did this by slicing extra copies of the gene into the plant. This causes the plant to think it is under attack from the gene and it kills all copies.

The scientists said that this process had no impact on the rest of the plant.

However, they have warned that further work is needed before they non-allergic soya can be commercially produced.

The scientists said two other genes which can also trigger allergic reactions need to be removed from the soybean plant first.

GM warning

But Adrian Bebb, real food campaigner for Friends of the Earth told BBC News Online: "The research needs to look closely at the unexpected effects of turning on or off genes.

"Ironically, one concern is that GM foods could cause more allergies. Scientists are very good at developing new techniques but the basic safety research is completely absent.

"As with all GM crops they need to ensure that segregation from the rest of the food chain is absolutely essential. This is something the biotech industry seems incapable of doing."

See also:

02 Dec 97 | Science/Nature
09 Apr 99 | Science/Nature
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