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Children and Genetically Engineered Food: Potentials and Problems

Perr, Hilary A.

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: October 2002 - Volume 35 - Issue 4 - p 475-486
Invited Review

Changes in food production and dietary practices are occurring faster than our understanding of their potential impact on children's health. Traditionally, pediatric gastroenterologists have studied food with respect to its nutritive value and digestibility, its influence on metabolism, its growth-promoting characteristics, and its relationship to risk and severity of disease. Biotechnology is now expanding the science of food to include disease prevention and treatment, as well as the feeding of children on a global scale. Bioengineered (“genetically modified”, or “transgenic”) plants were initially developed to enhance the food supply by increasing crop yields. Such previously developed transgenic plants are now prevalent worldwide and appear in many processed food products. The implementation of the technology of genetic modulation of food plants has led to considerable fear, controversy, and confusion as the understanding of the technology is poor in the general population. This review presents an overview of genetically modified food crops and their potential unique benefits and risks to children's health. Political, economical, and ecological issues related to transgenic crops are not discussed.

Department of Pediatrics, California Pacific Medical Center and University of California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Correspondence and reprint requests to Hilary A. Perr, Director of Evolving Foods and Children's Health, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, California Pacific Medical Center, 2340 Clay Street, Suite 309, Box 7999, San Francisco, California 94120, U.S.A. (e-mail

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.