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Altered-food allergies

September 9, 2002, New York Times, via AgNet: Michael Hansen, research associate, Consumers Union, writes regarding, "Ranking Risks of Gene-Altered Animals" (editorial, Sept. 4) which says that food safety risks are "no great problem" and that the risk of allergic reactions may have "to be accepted if the nation wants genetically improved foods."

Allergic reactions can be fatal. There is no need to accept any increased risk of allergic reaction introduced into genetically engineered foods. The Food and Drug Administration could largely prevent such reactions if it required genetically engineered foods to be tested and approved before they go on the market, the way it does food additives.

There is even a protocol for the agency to follow: last year a panel convened by the Word Health Organization and led by the National Institutes of Health's top food allergy expert spelled out an appropriate testing regimen.