Keeping track of GM crops
New bioluminescent technology can track and monitor GM crops in the food processing chain.
Bioluminescent real time reporter (BART) technology and loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) have been shown to identify genetically modified (GM) crops in low concentration.
According to researchers at Cambridgeshire-based Lumora, combining the use of BART and LAMP techniques has allowed them to recognise 0.1% GM contamination of maize- a level far below the current EU limit of 0.9%.
Currently, the most common technique to do this is polymerase chain reaction (PCR). However, this involves complex extraction procedures and rapid thermocycling, both of which require specialist equipment.
To overcome these problems scientists assessed whether they could use LAMP to amplify DNA at a constant temperature and use BART to identify GM-specific DNA in real time.
Dr Guy Kiddle, who led the research, explained that LAMP-BART was more tolerant of contaminating polysaccharides, meaning that the DNA clean-up process did not need to be as thorough.
“This method requires only basic equipment for DNA extraction, and a constant temperature for DNA amplification and detection,” he said. “Consequently LAMP-BART provides a ‘field-ready’ solution for monitoring GM crops and their interaction with wild plants or non-GM crops.”
Recent events have highlighted public concern over GM crops in the food chain. Earlier this week scientists at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden urged campaigners not to ruin their experimental plots of modified wheat.
The campaign group Take the Flour Back said it would destroy the site unless the research is halted, citing concerns that genes from the modified strain could find their way into neighbouring fields.
It believes more stringent safety tests should be done before GM crops are planted outdoors.
A detailed account of Lumora’s research, and background to public concerns, can be found in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Biotechnology and in the below PDF.