GMO Testing

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Testing for bioengineered crops, also referred to as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), has become a necessity in light of legislation imposed in member countries of the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and in an increasing number of other countries. They established labeling laws for approved bioengineered crops, while prohibiting the import of unapproved varieties. For approved varieties, commonly tolerance thresholds are established below which a product does not have to be labeled as containing or derived from GMOs.

Threshold levels vary for each legislation. Since 2004, the labeling threshold for food products in the European Union is 0.9%. Current EU regulations demand control through analysis and traceability. Food and feed products that contain or are derived from GMOs must be labeled. For products that are highly refined, documentation of their conventional, non-biotech source material is now required. The labeling threshold in Japan is 5%, South Korea 3%, and Australia and New Zealand 1%.

Two different categories of analytical methods are used to detect GMOs. One is Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). It is based on the detection of genetic material (DNA). It is most versatile for detection of biotech crops and therefore the method of choice for many applications. The alternative is Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). It detects foreign protein(s) which most bioengineered crops contain as a result of the insertion of bioengineered gene(s). As compared to PCR, ELISA is more restricted in its applicability but can be very useful in certain raw commodities.

A commonly recommended or required approach is to screen for any biotech crop or material derived thereof by the detection of genetic elements that are shared between virtually all commercialized agricultural GMOs. The two best- known examples are the 35S promoter from Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) and the NOS terminator from Agrobacterium tumefaciens. These are widely used, well-characterized elements, which direct the expression of the biotechnology genes they reside in. These tests will work on most matrices: corn, feed pellets, soybeans, corn starch, maltodextrin, seasonings, vitamins, beverages and all finished food.

This method is widely accepted as the most efficient way to screen for GMOs. Additional screening tests may be advisable for different commodities and ingredients. A variety of screening tests besides 35S promoter and NOS terminator are available at Eurofins GeneScan. Please contact our experts for more information about devising the best testing strategy for your product.

We offer a comprehensive suite of GMO tests for corn, corn by-products, soybeans, canola and rice being exported to the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Please contact our experts for more information about these packages.