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GMO Database Begun for European Regulators

Genetic testing illustration

(National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH)

30 November 2015. A database of DNA sequences found in genetically modified organisms or GMOs opened on Friday to help European regulators detect GMOs in food and feed products. The GMO-Amplicons database, available to the public, is run by the Joint Research Centre, the in-house science policy service of the European Commission.

Europe now grows only one variety of commercially grown genetically-modified corn, but imports other GM corn varieties, as well as cotton, soybean, oilseed rape, and sugar beets. Companies in the EU must receive authorization to import GM agricultural products, as long as they do not threaten human or animal health, or the environment. EU regulations also require notices on product labels if they contain GMOs.

Joint Research Centre says GMO-Amplicons stores more than 240,000 DNA sequences from known GMO crops developed for human use or animal feed. DNA sequences are the precise order of nucleic acids providing the chemical building blocks in an organism’s genome or genetic code. Sequencing DNA requires enormous computing power, but the cost that computing power is steadily declining, making it possible to analyze the genomes or more plant and animal organisms, as well as humans.

The database contains DNA sequences derived with polymerase chain reactions that take pieces of DNA strands, then copy and amplify the pieces for analysis. The technique is often used for DNA fingerprinting, detection of bacteria or viruses (particularly AIDS), and diagnosis of genetic disorders.

For detection purposes, the database analyzes DNA samples for amplicons, short DNA sequences that act as indicators of larger genomes, then matches the amplicons to the stored DNA sequences. Those sequences were compiled from published studies, patents, and other public databases.

Joint Research Centre says detection is a key part of its enforcement of the EU’s GMO authorization and labeling regulations. Development and validation of GMO detection methods is the job of the European Union Reference Laboratory for GM Food and Feed, part of the Joint Research Centre. The new database joins JRC GMO-Matrix, a decision support tool to optimize the detection of GMOs, and GMOMethods, an EU database of reference methods for GMO analysis.

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