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1. Introduction

A Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Foods Derived from Biotechnology was held at the Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome from 22 to 25 January 2001. The Consultation was a follow-up of the Joint FAO/WHO Consultation held in Geneva, Switzerland from 29 May to 2 June 2000 and focused on the question of allergenicity of genetically modified foods. A total of 28 experts, including authors of discussion papers, participated in the Consultation. The complete list of participants is given in Annex 1.

Mr Jacque Vercueil, Director of the Agriculture and Economic Development Analysis Division, Economic and Social Department of FAO, opened the Consultation on behalf of the Directors-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and FAO. In his statement, Mr Vercueil indicated that allergenicity was one of the most frequently asked questions in connection with the safety of genetically modified foods. It was urgently needed to establish a reliable methodology to assess the allergenicity of new foods produced by the recombinant DNA technique. Applying appropriate risk management measures could reduce the risk of allergenicity of genetically modified foods.

The Consultation elected Dr Dean Metcalfe as Chairperson and Dr Harris Steinman as Vice-Chairperson. Dr Steve Taylor was elected as Rapporteur. The Consultation agreed to base its discussion on the decision tree adapted by the previous FAO/WHO Consultation in 2000 (Annex 3). The Consultation decided to form two working groups to draft the report and to delegate the working groups to elect their chairpersons and rapporteurs: the first working group, considering mainly products created with genes obtained from known allergenic sources (the left-hand side of the existing decision tree, Annex 3) and post-market surveillance, decided that Dr Carsten Bindslev-Jensen be its Chairman and Dr David Hill be its Rapporteur and the second working group, considering mainly products created with genes obtained from sources with no history of allergenicity (the right-hand side of the existing decision tree, Annex 3), decided that Dr Rob Aalberse be its Chairperson and Dr Ricki Helm be its Rapporteur, respectively. The list of working documents is reproduced in Annex 2 to this report. The report entitled “Assessment of Scientific Information Concerning StarLink Corn” (EPA, 2000) was also introduced as an actual case where methodologies under discussion by the Consultation had been applied.

The Consultation further noted the specific questions in documents Biotech 01/02, submitted by the Joint FAO/WHO Secretariat of the Consultation.

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