The detection of genetically modified organisms helps grain growers, suppliers, processors, and consumers determine and track the genetic identity of plants at every stage of food production.
Many commercialized crops including corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, canola, and alfalfa now have multiple GMO varieties that increase yield potential or crop value by providing herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, environmental stress tolerance, or output traits. Based on the prevalence of GMO crops, seed producers producing non-GMO crop varieties may want to perform GMO testing on their breeder plants, as their crops could potentially contain genetically modified plants due to cross pollination with neighboring crops. Testing in the field detects any contamination and preserves crop integrity for the producers’ target markets.
There are a few factors to consider when detecting genetically modified organisms in foods. First, the right part of a plant must be sampled. A leaf from a growing plant, a single seed, or a bulk grain sample are all reliable options when identifying the protein or DNA of GMO plant. Second, a specific method must be used to test the sample, including protein- or DNA-based GMO testing. Finally, the testing method and the operator’s training and procedure can affect a test’s ability to accurately identify a GMO.
To accurately test a growing crop in the field using its leaves without jeopardizing the validity of the sampling, farmers must test a reliable sampling of leaves. To avoid favoring any particular part of the field, farmers can walk in the shape of a “W” to gather leaves from every part of the field. The more leaves gathered, the more accurate the results. Testers should mark the locations of the field where the leaves came from, for reference.
The seeds of a plant or the grain produced by a crop can also be sampled for GMO detection. Again, a random sampling representative of the entire lot is necessary for accurate and precise results.
Two testing methods are considered to be the most effective for detecting GMOs: DNA-based and protein-based methods. DNA-based GMO testing analyzes the genome of a plant to identify the presence of a genetic modification. EnviroLogix uses a patented technology called DNAble to perform DNA-based detection of GMOs. EnviroLogix employs the LFD (Lateral Flow Device also known as strips or dip sticks) and ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay) plates to perform protein-based GMO tests.
Which test is appropriate depends on the sample and the stage of food production the sample is taken from. For example, bulk grain can be tested using both protein-based and DNA-based methods, but processed grains can only be tested using DNA-based methods due to protein denaturation during food processing.
How to identify GMO corn
Corn, also known as maize, is one of the most popular crops grown around the world and with 142 varieties of genetically modified corn (not all have regulatory approvals) it is one of the most important crops to test. Globally, over 90 percent of the acreage used to grow corn is in the United States. Most GMO corn is modified to provide herbicide tolerance and to resistance to insects. Corn is also modified to protect against extreme weather like droughts, or to make it more conducive for other applications like ethanol production.
EnviroLogix has several protein tests that can detect GMOs in corn including the QuickComb, an affordable way to quickly detect a wide variety of genetic modifications. QuickCombs are excellent screening tools to inexpensively rule out the presence of GMO when moving grain through a non-GMO value chain. The EnviroLogix QuickComb provides the most comprehensive GMO screening because at least one protein expressed in any commercialized GMO corn will be detected.
How to identify GMO soybeans
Soybean, also called soya, is the most prevalent genetically modified crop in the world relative to acres planted. Because soy can be used for so many different purposes, it has been genetically modified to be more conducive for the production of certain food products. For example, in addition to being tolerant to herbicides and resistant to insects, some soy varieties have been modified to produce a healthier soy oil profile. EnviroLogix offers detection of both DNA and protein in GMO soybean samples or processed soybean samples (e.g., soybean flakes or soybean meal). The QuickComb for Soy, among other EnviroLogix tests, is a quick and affordable way to test for GMO protein. EnviroLogix DNAble assays are ideal for point-of-need detection of processed soy samples.