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 Foods derived from genetically modified organisms and detection methods
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6  Laboratories for food control in Switzerland

5 National research projects devoted to the detection of GMOs

Several countries and communities are currently funding research projects with the objective of developing or optimising methods for the detection of genetically modified organisms. Most of the research efforts focus on the identification of food stuffs, consisting of or containing GMOs. Other activities are aiming at the detection of GMOs in the environment.

5.1 The European Community

In October 1996, a three year EC project was started on the 'development of methods to identify foods by means of genetic engineering' ( DMIF-Gen). Approximately 20 European laboratories are currently participating in this project under the coordination of Dr. G. Schreiber, 'Bundesinstitut für gesundheitlichen Verbraucherschutz und Veterinärmedizin' (BgVV) (Schreiber, 1997). The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health is one of the partners in that project and the agency BATS will also take part in the near future. The main objectives of the EC project include the optimisation of existing detection methods, as well as the development of new identification methods, taking into special consideration the problems derived from the nature of the food matrix and the respective organism used. The methods to be studied include multiplex-PCR, PCR ELISA, DNA-Biosensors, direct hybridisation, 3SR, NASBA, AFLP and protein diagnostic approaches.

5.1.1 Germany

During the last few years a working group for the development of methods to detect foods produced by means of genetically engineering ('Entwicklung von Methoden zum Nachweis mit Hilfe gentechnischer Verfahren hergestellter Lebensmittel') consisting of predominantly German participants and headed by the BgVV has developed three PCR-based detection methods using model organisms. Two of these methods, one for the detection of a genetically modified potato and the other for a genetically engineered Lactobacillus in raw sausages have been completed and published (Schulze et al., 1996; LMBG-Methodensammlung, 1996 and 'in press') (see section 3.1.1  Officially validated identification methods). The third method, which was developed for the detection of Streptococcus in yoghurt, will soon be finalised. Several of the partners that participated in this working group now are taking part in the EC project described under 5.1.

5.1.2 The United Kingdom

The Institute for Food Research in Norwich started a project in 1994 on 'tagging genetically engineered organisms'. In addition, several projects are being pursued at the Laboratory of the Government Chemist in Middlesex (project titles are given):

  • 'Development and validation of DNA probe and PCR technology and the introduction of reporter genes to detect very low levels of GMOs in the environment' (MTS-programme, 1992-1997).
  • 'Detection of genetically modified organisms in foods' (MAFF-funded, 1995-1998).
  • 'Honey from GM plants: integrity of pollen DNA, and expression of promoters in floral organs' (MAFF-funded, 1995-1997).
  • 'Monitoring releases of GM crop plants: herbicide-tolerant transgenic oilseed rape' (DOE -funded, 1994-97).
  • 'Development of methods to identify foods by means of genetic engineering' (EC-funded, 1996-1999).

5.1.3 The Netherlands

A project in the Netherlands was recently initiated for the 'development of a method to screen for the presence of transgenic soybean.' The contributing partners are RIKILT-DLO and TNO-Voeding. The project is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports.

5.2 Switzerland

Research with the objective to develop detection methods, to test such methods in inter-laboratory studies and to apply them in the laboratories that are finally responsible for the control of actual food samples are carried out by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (BAG), a federal sub-commission (SK 29A), academic laboratories and by food control laboratories ('Kantonale Laboratorien') of the federal states ('Kantone').

A screening method applicable to the detection of the approved transgenic soybeans (Pietsch et al., 1997; Waiblinger et al., 1997) is being tested in an inter-laboratory study. A product-specific method developed in collaboration with R. Meyer, Nestlé, is also being tested. Furthermore, a highly sensitive product-specific method for the detection of transgenic soybeans from Monsanto using nested PCR (University of Berne), and a specific method for detecting the presence of transgenic corn from CIBA-GEIGY (now Novartis) in food (SK29A, BAG, Kantonale Laboratorien Basel and Bern) are currently being developed.

5.3 Canada

The Research Division of the Bureau of Microbial Hazards in 'Health Canada' is collaborating with several academic laboratories on the development of methods to detect GMOs; the projects include the detection of GMOs in food stuffs using DNA probe hybridisation and conventional as well as in situ PCR. Another project involves the use of bioluminescence technology in order to monitor GMOs in food; further projects focus on monitoring of GMOs in the environment.

© Copyright Zentrum BATS: Kontakt Legal Advisor: Advokatur Prudentia-Law Veröffentlichungsdatum: 1997-02-08

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