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Will Eating Vegetarian Bouillabaisse Make Me Sick?

June 8, 2010

In a previous post (Making Vegetarian Bouillabaisse: What Happens to GMOs If They Fail?), we discovered that the often misrepresented transgenic organism the “Fish/Tomato” did exist and was tested in greenhouse conditions. However, very little information about the different tests that were run using copies of the genome are publicly available.

As biohacking (synthbio, artificial life, and good old transgenics) becomes increasingly cheap and accessible outside of expert lab settings, we will want to have a good understanding of how novel genomes with inserted transgenes will affect human and non-human actors.

In order to discover what kind of existing knowledge and access an organization like the Center will have in intelligently exploring such scenarios, I attempted to ask a seemingly “stupid” question.

Q: Would eating the Fish Tomato make me sick if I have a seafood allergy?

I wrote:

“A: Probably not, but it is not clear that there has been any testing in this area. This particular product never reached the stage of commercialization and I can find no record of it being tested on human or non-human subjects….According to the Food Allergy Initiative “the protein in the flesh of fish most commonly causes the allergic reaction; however, it is also possible to have a reaction to fish gelatin, made from the skin and bones of fish.”

as an initial response in the previous post but sought out more expert opinion.

In attempting to get an answer I came into contact with three allergy experts, who were each generous with their time and wrote me back. I am grateful because I worry about the current lack of expert advice for the exploding biohacking movement both within and outside the walls of academia.

One expert agreed that it is unlikely that the “antifreeze” gene transferred from flounder would cause an allergic reaction if someone ate this tomato since it is typically the muscle proteins of fish that cause the allergic reaction. Another expert seemed nonplussed about the question, but kindly responded. None of the experts I was in contact with knew of any published study of the potential allergenicity of the gene in question.

However, going forward with the historical reenactment of science that is the Vegetarian Bouillabaisse project, I want to be sure to ask some of the “stupid” questions that may or may not have been asked in the first go around of the Fish/Tomato.


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