New test can reveal GMO’s in food

Posted Jan 23, 2014 by Tim Sandle
The first comprehensive test to detect genetic modification in food has been unveiled. As the abundance of genetically modified (GM) foods continues to grow, so does the demand for monitoring and labeling them.
Variety of healthy food on the street market in Vila Madalena  Sao Paulo  Brazil.
Variety of healthy food on the street market in Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
To help inform shoppers and enforce regulations, scientists have announced the first comprehensive method to detect genetic modifications in food in one convenient, accurate test.
The researchers have developed a test termed “MACRO,” which stands for: multiplex amplification on a chip with readout on a microarray. The technique combines two well-known genetic methods to flag about 97 percent of the known commercialized modifications, almost twice as many as other tests. It also can be easily expanded to include future genetically modified crops.
Genetically modified food is big business with farmers growing GM crops on more than 420 million acres of land across 28 countries (based on 2012 data). This is around 100 times more than when commercialization began in 1996. With GM food, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. In most cases the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species. Examples in food crops include resistance to certain pests, diseases, or environmental conditions, reduction of spoilage, or resistance to chemical treatments (e.g. resistance to a herbicide), or improving the nutrient profile of the crop.
However, many consumers and environmental groups are concerned, and this has triggered the demand for a test to verify whether a foodstuff is GM free or not. The key areas of controversy related to genetically modified food are: whether GM food should be labeled, the role of government regulators, the effect of GM crops on health and the environment, the effect on pesticide resistance, the impact of GM crops for farmers, and the role of GM crops in feeding the world population.
The method was developed by Li-Tao Yang, Sheng-Ce Tao and colleagues. The findings have been reported in the American Chemical Society’s journal Analytical Chemistry. The paper is titled “MACRO: A Combined Microchip-PCR and Microarray System for High-Throughput Monitoring of Genetically Modified Organisms”.