Perhaps I am more attune to agricultural issues these days, because I hear more and more about peanut allergies. Around the beginning of the school year, my Facebook blew up with angry posts on both sides of the issue. Certainly the concern is understandable, as at times this allergy can be so severe that without immediate medical treatment the child could die.
Growing up peanut butter and jelly was all I ate for school lunches, and frankly it is still one of my favorite foods. Although to reduce intake of those delicious partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrups, I have replaced the Skippy Super Chunk and Welch’s grape jelly of my childhood days with healthier, less tasty options. Regardless of one’s peanut butter choice, a world sans peanut butter makes me sad.
As many organizations decided the best alternative is to ban peanuts all together, I began to wonder why peanut allergies are so severe, and why they seemed to be new. It just wasn’t as big of an issue when I was growing up. A quick Google search answered that: Peanut Allergies Rise, Trying to Determine a Cause.
The good news from this article is that immunotherapy has produced some very positive results. In many cases, immunotherapy has allowed the affected individual to no longer be in mortal danger of loose peanut dust flying through the air. These individuals will still mostly be unable to ingest any volume of peanuts themselves, but at least others could in their presence.
With all the reading and research I have been doing on bioengineering and purposeful breeding in plants, I started to wonder if science could create an allergy-free peanut. As usual, science was ahead of me: Allergen-Free Peanuts And More USDA Research. A personal point of pride in this article is that North Carolina A&T State University is a partner in this solution.
An enzymatic solution that peanuts are soaked in, as the final step in processing, removes about 98% of the allergens. The world will soon have almost allergy-free peanuts sans any genetic modification. Children will once again be able to enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, as well as all other delicious peanut treats. I’m off to bake some peanut butter cookies to celebrate, or maybe make a peanut butter pie, no wait, buckeyes! Yes, definitely buckeyes. Apparently, I’ll also be celebrating by wearing stretchy pants for the foreseeable future.