Perceived and Potential Human Health Risks Associated with Consumption of Genetically Modified Animals (University of Guelph Master of Public Health Program)
Numerous varieties of genetically modified (GM) crops have been approved in Canada, and processed foods containing GM ingredients can be found on grocery store shelves. In contrast, there are currently no GM animals or products derived from GM animals approved for human consumption in Canada. According to the principle of substantial equivalence, which is used to evaluate the safety of GM foods, the genetically modified product must be at least as safe as its unmodified counterpart. Common types of health effects include protein allergenicity, anti-nutrient properties and toxicity. This evidence review summarizes the potential health effects associated with consumption of two GM animal products (GM Atlantic salmon and pork) that are currently undergoing food safety review in North America. The GM AquAdvantage® Salmon produces excess growth hormone, allowing it to reach market size more rapidly. Due to the lack of animal feeding studies, long-term effects of consuming GM Atlantic salmon are unclear. The GM EnviropigTM produces an enzyme that enables phosphate absorption and utilization, thus reducing phosphate content of manure and environmental effects associated with excess phosphate. No adverse effects resulting from consumption of this enzyme have been reported. To date, there is little evidence that GM animals pose a significantly greater risk to human health than their unmodified counterparts in terms of allergenicity, anti-nutrient effects or acute toxicity. However, there is some uncertainty regarding long-term health effects.