Doctors of the Carlos III hospital confirmed the first case of human death generated by the consumption of genetically modified food (GMO). Juan Pedro Ramos died from anaphylaxis after consuming some recently developed tomatoes containing fish genes, which provoked a violent and lethal allergic reaction.
The cause of death was confirmed through testing of the tomatoes he’d purportedly consumed before falling ill:
“At first we thought that there had been some form of contamination of his food, from contact with fish or seafood during the preparation” explained Dr. Rafael Perez-Santamarina. “It was only when we tested the tomato itself that we noticed that it contained some allergens usually found in seafood. We did many different analysis and they all confirmed that the tomato was indeed the source of the allergens that killed Mr. Ramos.”
The case of Mr. Ramos is the first human death officially confirmed to be linked to the ingestion of genetically modified food. It contradicts most studies on GMOs which had concluded that genetically engineered crops currently on the market were completely safe to eat.
A team led by University of Nebraska scientists had anticipated this kind of problem in 1996, when they found that a Brazil nut protein introduced to improve the nutritional quality of genetically modified soybeans was able to provoke an allergic reaction in people with Brazil nut allergies. However, this kind of problem was dismissed by most scientists as very improbable, since it could easily be avoided with proper safety testing. The soybean injected with the Brazil nut gene was indeed abandoned during development, but it seems that the genetically modified tomato that caused Mr. Ramos’ death had not been submitted to sufficient testing and the lethal risk had not been identified before it was marketed.
The Spanish ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality ordered for the tomatoes of Portugese origin which infected the young man, to be recalled and removed from stores and markets for safety reasons. More than 7000 tons of tomatoes will therefore be ceased across the country by ministry inspectors and public safety officials.
The ministry also issued a public statement about the death of Mr Ramos in which it sends its condolences to his family and adds that it will “immediately demand further research on the subject to determine if other genetically modified food products on the European market could represent a risk for the Spanish population”.