What is GMO testing?
Agriculture and the science behind it has expanded from traditional cross-breeding practices, which involve exchanging genes between two plants of the same or very similar species, to include what is called biotechnology: a variety of methods, practices and tools used to alter living organisms.
One of these tools, genetic engineering, enables plant breeders to develop genetically modified organisms (GMOs), such as plants that are modified through the addition of genetic material from another organism, whether or not they are of the same species.
By incorporating genetic modifications, GMOs take on new protective and/or quality traits. GMOs can have a higher resistance to threats such as disease, insects, pests, herbicides, severe weather like droughts, and undesirable cross-pollination with other plants. GMOs can also fortify plants with additional vitamins and minerals, and remove allergenic properties, making these plants healthier for consumption.
Many of these GMOs and their new traits are developed by companies that give their GMO products a trade name so they can be bought and sold on the open market. It is important to know that genetic traits and trade names are not the same. GMOs with different trade names may possess the same genetic trait. And GMOs sold under the same trade name may contain different genetic modifications. In fact, there are so many different types of GMOs used for so many different purposes, like producing food and packaging, that it can be difficult to track them. Often the only way to know if a product contains a GMO ingredient is to put it through a GMO test.
GMO detection is accomplished through a few GMO tests, including protein- and DNA-based GMO detection. DNA-based GMO testing looks for the presence of a transgene within a plant’s genome, while protein-based GMO testing detects the cellular structure of a plant, which is determined by the instructions provided by the DNA. An increasing number of GMOs do not express a unique protein (express RNA that performs a specific cellular function) and therefore can only be detected using a DNA-based test.
Why is GMO testing important?
Each country has its own set of regulations and requirements that govern the use of GMOs.
In some countries, like the United States, GMOs are relatively unrestricted, while other countries have restricted and even banned the use of GMOs. To uphold these restrictions, governments and third-party organizations use tracking systems, like identity preservation, and they mandate GMO testing to determine whether or not a product can be made available to their constituency. Identity preservation is a process of ensuring a grain, food, or product is non-GMO at every stage of production.
GMO testing, tracking, and labeling has real market value for companies and consumers, as well as political value for governments and agricultural organizations.
Not everyone wishes to consume or use products that contain GMOs, so GMO testing helps suppliers and consumers identify products that are GMO-free. In some markets, non-GMO food and products command a premium price, which has led to an increase in demand for non-GMO-certified commodities and food processing capabilities. The process of being certified non-GMO is rigorous, involving GMO testing multiple points along the supply chain.
For seed manufacturers, GMO testing is necessary in the course of research to identify, protect, modify, or maintain the genetic identity of a seed. Seed manufactures will also employ GMO testing to verify that produced seed lots contain the intended presence and absence of specific GM traits at the desired purity (for example, >90% Roundup Ready seeds). Seed testing is a statistical process where a representative sample from the seed lot is tested and each seed is analyzed individually for GMO content.
For farmers, GMO testing provides precise knowledge about the integrity and makeup of crops, which is especially vital for grain headed to the non-GMO marketplace, but also necessary for tracing and purchasing seeds. For grain handlers and grain mills, GMO testing is key to segregating grain headed to various markets and end users.
In short, GMO testing allows grain growers, suppliers and consumers to make informed choices about their crops and how they use them.
How EnviroLogix can help with GMO testing
EnviroLogix develops and manufactures state-of-the-art testing kits for both protein- and DNA-based GMO detection.
EnviroLogix GMO test kits provide accurate, rapid results at the point of need, saving the user time and money when compared to sending samples out to a GMO lab for analysis. GMO test kits are available for testing leaf tissue, single seed, bulk grain, and even some processed commodities like corn flour or soybean meal. GMO test kits are available in qualitative or quantitative formats depending on the specific product (see the product catalog for GMO test details). For lateral flow strips (a protein-based GMO detection test), quantification is made possible using the QuickScan System, a reader and software solution ideal for both GMO and mycotoxin testing. The QuickScan System measures the line intensity of lateral flow test strips and quantitates either percent GMO or mycotoxin concentration depending on the strip being analyzed. For rapid, on-site detection of GMO DNA, EnviroLogix has invented and patented a molecular testing solution trademarked as DNAble. DNAble delivers PCR-quality results in minutes at the point of need, saving customers days compared to sending a sample out to a PCR GMO lab. Unlike protein-based detection systems, DNAble is capable of GMO detection in processed food samples such as soybean meal.
Need help selecting the right tool for your GMO testing needs? Please contact EnviroLogix customer service today!