3.4.1 Health Effects Research

Methods for more efficiently and accurately identifying potential food allergens in transgenic pest-protected plants should be developed. Criteria of digestibility and overall homology with known allergens can be good indicators of allergenicity (Metcalfe 1996a), but the identification of specific protein sequences (or epitopes) involved in allergic responses, the further development of tests with human immune-system endpoints, and the development of more-reliable animal models should be pursued (section 2.5.1).

The committee suggests the establishment of a database on natural plant-defensive compounds of potential dietary or other toxicologic concern. Information needed for this database includes a clear list of what plants are used, phenotypic variation in the substances in different parts of plants, and genetic variations in different varieties. Research is needed to determine the baseline concentrations of secondary compounds in plant species of potential dietary or other toxicological concern and to determine how these compounds may vary depending on the genetic background and environmental conditions (see section 2.5.2 and recommendations in section 3.2.4).

For longterm toxicity testing, research should be conducted to examine whether longterm feeding of transgenic pest-protected plants to animals whose natural diets consist of large quantities and the type of plant material being tested (for example, grain or forage crops fed to livestock) could be a useful method for assessing potential human health impacts (see section 2.5.1).

3.4.2 Plant Breeding and Molecular Biology Research

Research on the mechanisms of pest-protection in both conventional and transgenic pest-protected plants should be encouraged so that we can produce crops that are only minimally affected by diseases and pests, deploy pest-protection strategies that have only minimal impact on the environment, and produce crops that can be consumed or used safely by humans and animals.

A major goal of current and future development of conventional and transgenic pest-protected plants should be to decrease the potential for ecological and health problems associated with some types of pest-protected plants (section 2.2.1). That includes developing breeding approaches and assays for avoiding the development of varieties with unintended high concentrations of potential toxins or decreased concentrations of essential nutrients, controlling expression of transgenes that have potential adverse nontarget effects to only nonedible plant tissues, and

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