European consumers are very concerned about risks derived from genetically modified foods. The EU-wide legislation reflects these concerns by regulating the labelling of food products containing genetically modified materials, creating a need for widespread testing. Special care is needed with food for infants and the partners in EUREKA project EUROENVIRON SAMPBABYFOODOGM aim to produce a kit for the detection of GM ingredients in baby food.
The main focus of the project is the development of reliable, quantitative GM screening methods for processed baby foods. The project tested two crops, maize and glycine max, that are at high risk of containing GM ingredients.
"The EUREKA project has been very important for us, it gave us the opportunity to meet and share knowledge with other very important laboratories and other European countries. The result was the creation of a team that still works very well together in order to develop such a difficult project."
Dr. Marcello Gatti
"In fact most baby food replacing human milk is composed of ingredients that have a high chance of containing GM material, such as glycine max proteins and maize starch," says Dr Marcello Gatti, Development Manager of Italian lead partner Neotron.
"Identifying GM material is no easy task," says Gatti. "DNA is generally heavily degraded in processed foods or might be present only in traces, especially in the case of vegetable oils. Therefore quantitative GM screening of this kind of food poses technical problems."
Roland Schafleitner, researcher and project manager at Austrian partner ARC Seibersdorf GmbH says the testing methods are based on the detection of genetic sequences present in foods derived from GM plants - particularly maize and soybean products.
"The working steps include quality controlled sampling, DNA-extraction and purification and identification of GM sequences," he says. Qualitative and Quantitative procedures with a maximum of reliability and reproducibility have been established.
On completion, the new technique will allow fast, low cost results and could be used by a wide range of operators in Europe and beyond.
The project team are currently about midway through the project and the basic techniques, such as quality controlled sampling, DNA extraction and amplification, have been established. The second project year will be dedicated mostly to the standardisation of the quantification procedures and is due to complete by June 2003.
"EUREKA gave us the opportunity to meet and share knowledge with important laboratories in other European countries. The result was the creation of a team that works very well together. Working as part of EUREKA made me appreciate team work. I would recommend this sort of collaboration to anyone."