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EPA and Mount Sinai Investigate Food Allergy Triggers

(New York, N.Y. – April 14, 2009) Reacting to a growing public health problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a $466,125 research grant to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine to investigate the mechanisms that make food allergies occur and pinpoint what triggers them. Within the biotechnology sector, EPA regulates the proteins used as pesticides that are introduced to our food supply and aims to ensure that these do not have adverse health impacts. The innovative microbiology study will examine the genetic factors that contribute to the spread of food allergy by closely examining its pathogenesis or step-by-step development.

“Food allergies affect six to eight percent of children in the U.S., but there is a shortage of information on how food allergies develop and how to prevent them,” said George Pavlou, Acting EPA Regional Administrator. “An important component of EPA’s biotechnology research is to improve our understanding of the health effects from genetically engineering proteins. This study will bring us closer to identifying environmental or dietary triggers that lead to food allergy.”

To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetically engineered foods have been documented in the human population. However, the majority of soybeans, as well as large proportions of corn, canola, and cotton crops produced worldwide are genetically engineered with custom made proteins for resistance to pests. The results of the EPA funded research will be used to better predict if the development of dietary allergens is connected with genetic engineering of foods.

Mount Sinai researchers will test the mechanism by which thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), a human gene that has a central role in the development of allergic inflammation in the skin and lung, could also promote food allergy. They will investigate how the gene reacts in the body’s gastrointestinal tract under different conditions and thereby better comprehend its role in allergic reactions. They will closely examine how TSLP regulates or affects other biological changes within the stomach and intestines. The project also aims to develop a genetically modified mouse especially designed for food protein research.

EPA regulates the use of all pesticides in the U.S., including pesticide proteins introduced into food through genetic engineering. EPA has a regulatory power to establish acceptable levels for pesticide residues and evaluate human health and ecological risks under authority of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

For more details about the project, visit: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/display.ab...

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