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New GMO Test

First open source detection test for a gene-edited GM crop

The first-ever public detection method for a gene-edited crop has been successfully developed by a group of non-governmental organisations, non-GMO food associations and a food retailer. It was published on 7 September 2020.

The new research refutes claims by the biotech industry and some regulators that new genetically modified (GM) crops engineered with gene editing are indistinguishable from similar, non-GM crops and therefore cannot be regulated.

The new method detects a herbicide-tolerant rapeseed variety that was developed using gene editing, a new form of genetic engineering. It allows European Union (EU) countries to carry out checks to prevent this unauthorised GM crop from entering EU food and feed supply chains illegally. Until now, EU countries were unable to test their imports for the presence of this GM rapeseed, which is grown in parts of the US and Canada.

The new method also allows food companies, retailers, certification bodies and national food safety inspectors to verify that products do not contain this GM rapeseed.

The testing method was published in the scientific journal Foods after peer review.  It detects SU Canola, an oilseed rape variety engineered by the American gene-editing company Cibus to withstand certain herbicides. Environment Agency Austria (Umweltbundesamt), a member of the European Network of GMO Laboratories, has validated the method, which meets all EU requirements. 

The European Court of Justice ruled in 2018 that gene-edited organisms fall under the EU’s GMO laws. The Court said excluding new GMOs from the regulations would go against the purpose of the legislation. It also said this would fail to respect the precautionary principle that is enshrined in the EU’s founding treaties and is the basis for the EU’s food safety rules.

The new test shows that EU law governing GM organisms (GMOs) can also be applied to new types of GMOs produced through gene editing, maintaining the EU’s high food safety standards.

»It is likely that this approach can be used to develop detection methods for most, if not all, gene-edited crops«

 

Dr. John Fagan

Project Lead Scientist

»There is no excuse
not to apply EU GMO regulations«

 

Franziska Achterberg

Greenpeace

»We have developed this test because
authorities have failed to do so.«

 

Alexander Hissting

German "Non GMO" Label

Genome Editing: GMO 2.0

The term ‘gene editing’ (or ‘genome editing’) is often used to refer to new genetic engineering techniques that make it possible to obtain new traits without adding any foreign genetic material. The most prominent technique is CRISPR-Cas. Besides intended changes, gene editing also causes unintended genetic alterations that can affect the products’ safety for people and the environment. The long-term health and environmental impact of GM crops engineered with gene editing is as yet untested. So far, two gene-edited GM crops have made it to market, but are only grown in North America: Cibus’ SU Canola and Calyxt’s High Oleic Soybean.

Who developed ThE Test?

The research was carried out by a consortium led by Dr John Fagan at the Health Research Institute (Iowa, USA). It was funded by NGOs Greenpeace European Unit and Greenpeace Germany, and the Sustainability Council of New Zealand; associations for non-GM foods VLOG (Germany), ARGE Gentechnik-frei (Austria) and the Non-GMO Project (USA); the Organic and Natural Health Association (USA); organic food and farming association IFOAM Organics Europe; and Austria’s leading retailer SPAR.