Tests for the presence of GMOs in a wide range of food materials, including flour and other milled products, raw ingredients, and processed foods. The methods currently in use are all based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology with a panel of internationally recognised standard GM materials.
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At present, Hai Kang Life offer tests for the presence of GMOs in a wide range of food materials, including flour and other milled products, raw ingredients, and processed foods. The methods currently in use are all based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology with a panel of internationally recognised standard GM materials.
Hai Kang Life currently offers two main types of GM testing services:
A number of factors determine the appropriateness of whether qualitative or quantitative testing should be used. Hai Kang Life can provide knowledgeable advice to customers when making this decision. Further information concerning product sampling, DNA extraction and the two types of testing service are detailed in the following sections.
The GMO testing process can be separated into three distinct phases:
Phase 1: Product sampling
Samples submitted for GMO testing should be both representative of the consignment under question and of sufficient size so that significant results can be obtained at the detection limits of the test. For example, to detect GM DNA present in beans or kernels at a 0.1% level (1 in 1,000), an initial sample of 5,000-10,000 beans or kernels would be required. In the case of mixed processed products, a 200g sample will be enough for a test at a 0.1% sensitivity level.
Phase 2: DNA extraction
The most challenging aspect of GMO testing could be the extraction of high-quality DNA from the source material. Potential difficulties include: contamination with airborne DNA, trace amounts of DNA present from processed foods, and failure to completely remove PCR inhibitors from the DNA sample. To overcome these difficulties, our team of highly skilled researchers has designed robust extraction methods, which work consistently across a wide range of food types, including oil, sauce, flours, lecithin, and deep-fried products.
Phase 3: PCR amplification
Once high quality DNA is obtained, we use PCR to selectively amplify pre-determined segments of the transgenic insert. As a control measure, we PCR-amplify three different segments of DNA, each of which provides an independent result. Results across all three tests must be consistent before we report our findings. In cases where results require further confirmation, we either use additional PCR tests or re-extract the sample and re-analyse the DNA. For all our tests, we use an appropriate range of controls to ensure the most accurate results possible.
What are GMOs?
Technological breakthroughs in plant genetic engineering have enabled scientists to directly introduce novel genes into a variety of economically important crops, including soybeans, corns, rapeseed (canola), potatoes, and cotton. These novel genes may improve shelf life, confer resistance to certain herbicides or produce toxins for specific insect pests. Examples include Roundup Ready soybeans and Bt-corn, which are popularly used in a large variety of food products such as oils, protein fractions and dietary fiber as well as feed for livestock.
How are new genes introduced into plants?
There are a number of techniques involved in the introduction of new genes into plants. Biochemical 'scissors' called restriction enzymes are used to cut the strings of DNA in different places and select the required genes. These genes are usually then inserted into circular pieces of DNA (plasmids) found in bacteria. The bacteria reproduce rapidly and within a short time, thousands of identical copies and the new gene can be made. The plasmids are then introduced into individual plant cells to produce a "transgenic" or genetically modified (GM) plant.
Before the new gene is transferred, a 'marker gene' is attached which codes for resistance to an antibiotic. Plant cells which have been modified are then grown in a medium containing this antibiotic, and the only ones able to survive are those which have taken up the 'new' genes with the antibiotic-resistant marker attached. These cells are then cultured and grown into mature plants.
A piece of DNA (called a 'promoter') taken from a virus or bacterium is inserted along with the 'new' gene in order to 'switch it on' in its new host. These promoters allow genes to be produced at 10 to 1,000 times normal levels.
GMO in the Food Market
GM foods already on the global market include corn, soybeans, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, chicory and papaya. In addition, a variety of enzymes produced from genetically engineered microorganisms are used throughout the food processing industry.
As a result of the widespread planting of GM soybean and corn, primarily in the US - the biggest exporter of the two commodities in the world, it is estimated that more than 60% of commonly available processed foods contain soybean, corn and their derivatives of US origin. The production of GM crops grown in China tripled over the period 2000-2001 and it is now the world's fourth largest GM producer.
Growing consumer awareness and pressure has prompted numerous retailers to remove GM material from their products and has created difficulties for suppliers, processors and retailers. In order to check the veracity of any claims made concerning GM-status, there is a need for a reliable and cost-effective testing service.
Regulatory Controls of GM Food in Different Countries
Regulators and governments have come under pressure to strengthen labeling requirements. Recently, more than 35 countries have developed some form of labeling requirement for GM foods, including European Union (EU), China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Capitalizing on our extensive knowledge of DNA technology, Hai Kang Life has developed a range of DNA tests for the detection of GM material. Our services are designed to fit all the needs of different participants in the food industry.
Different GMO labeling regulations in some representative countries
Country Labeling threshold Requirements of Respective Regulations China 0 % 'Yes / No' mandatory labeling system. Australia & New Zealand 1 % All food and food additives imported into the region containing modified genes and/or their expression products ≧1% must be labeled. European Union 0.9 % All food and food additives imported into the region containing modified genes and/or their expression products ≧0.9% must be labeled. Special attention should be paid to soy, corn and their derived products (including highly refined products e.g. oils). Japan 5 % Food items having ≧5% GMO in the top 3 ingredients must be labeled as GM food. Korea 3 % Labeling is mandatory for all food items that contain GMO in their top 5 ingredients. Taiwan 5 % Food products containing ingredients of genetically modified soy or corn ≧5% by weight of the finished product shall be labeled as GM.