Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Reliable detection test for GMOs in food

The performance of a commercially available kit for determining the presence of genetically modified organisms in soybean powder has now been verified.

Background

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food is becoming more widespread, and many consumers are co...
The performance of a commercially available kit for determining the presence of genetically modified organisms in soybean powder has now been verified.

Background

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food is becoming more widespread, and many consumers are concerned about their inclusion in everyday products. As a result, the European Union demands that foodstuffs which are considered to be no longer equivalent to an existing food or food ingredient should be clearly and accurately labelled. One such food is a genetically modified soybean, RoundupReady, which is herbicide tolerant. At present, there is only one diagnostic kit available on the market that can detect the presence of RoundupReady in finely ground soybean powder. In a recent project, the Food Products Unit of the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has been testing the accuracy of this kit.

Working partnerships

This project is just one of the many GMO-related activities carried out by the IHCP. This project was conducted in collaboration with the Reference Material Unit of the Joint Research Centre's Institute of Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM). In addition, 38 laboratories from 13 EU countries and Switzerland took part in the trial. Each laboratory was sent a set of standard samples and 16 blind samples produced by the IRMM. The diagnostic kit, which is available from the American company, SDI, is based on the well-known ELISA technique (enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay). It is capable of detecting the protein that has been introduced into RoundupReady to create its tolerance to herbicides.

Description, impact and results

The experiment was set up to test an arbitrary threshold content of 2% GMO, i.e. to confirm whether or not the blind samples contained at least 2% of RoundupReady or less. This threshold was selected purely on technical feasibility and the availability of test materials, and was not intended to anticipate any future EC legislation regarding acceptable levels of GMOs in food. The laboratories therefore had to identify the samples simply as positive or negative for the presence of more than 2% GMOs.

All but one of the laboratories returned results to the IHCP, and a statistical data interpretation revealed that for samples containing less that 2% GMO the negative scores were 99% accurate. For the positive scores the accuracy was around 94%. These results are very encouraging and mark an important step towards developing quantitative tools to confirm compliance if and when a GMO threshold level is established in legislation. This is also good news for consumers because it will engender confidence in the accuracy of food labelling.

GMOs can also be identified through the presence of newly introduced `foreign' DNA sequences. Last year, the IHCP also validated a qualitative screening method to detect most of the GMOs approved for marketing at the present time, i.e. RoundupReady soybeans and BT-176 maize. This work was also carried out in collaboration with the IRMM.

In addition, the IHCP is responsible for archiving all dossiers that describe experimental field trials with GMOs throughout the EU. Summaries of these dossiers are available on the Internet at http://biotech.jrc.it.


Source: European Commission, DG XIII/D.4 - Information and Dissemination of Scientific and Technical Knowledge

Related information

Programmes

Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top