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Concept: Genetically modified organism


The landscape for genetically modified organisms is changing, thanks to sharp increases in the amounts and numbers of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops and the classification of two of the most commonly used herbicides as probably or possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Health, Agriculture, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Genetically modified organisms, Golden rice


In this study, the applicability of droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) for routine analysis in food and feed samples was demonstrated with the quantification of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) is currently used for quantitative molecular analysis of the presence of GMOs in products. However, its use is limited for detecting and quantifying very small numbers of DNA targets, as in some complex food and feed matrices. Using ddPCR duplex assay, we have measured the absolute numbers of MON810 transgene and hmg maize reference gene copies in DNA samples. Key performance parameters of the assay were determined. The ddPCR system is shown to offer precise absolute and relative quantification of targets, without the need for calibration curves. The sensitivity (five target DNA copies) of the ddPCR assay compares well with those of individual qPCR assays and of the chamber digital PCR (cdPCR) approach. It offers a dynamic range over four orders of magnitude, greater than that of cdPCR. Moreover, when compared to qPCR, the ddPCR assay showed better repeatability at low target concentrations and a greater tolerance to inhibitors. Finally, ddPCR throughput and cost are advantageous relative to those of qPCR for routine GMO quantification. It is thus concluded that ddPCR technology can be applied for routine quantification of GMOs, or any other domain where quantitative analysis of food and feed samples is needed.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Polymerase chain reaction, Molecular biology, DNA replication, DNA polymerase, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food



Since their first commercialization, the diversity of taxa and the genetic composition of transgene sequences in genetically modified plants (GMOs) are constantly increasing. To date, the detection of GMOs and derived products is commonly performed by PCR-based methods targeting specific DNA sequences introduced into the host genome. Information available regarding the GMOs' molecular characterization is dispersed and not appropriately organized. For this reason, GMO testing is very challenging and requires more complex screening strategies and decision making schemes, demanding in return the use of efficient bioinformatics tools relying on reliable information.DescriptionThe GMOseek matrix was built as a comprehensive, online open-access tabulated database which provides a reliable, comprehensive and user-friendly overview of 328 GMO events and 247 different genetic elements (status: 18/07/2013). The GMOseek matrix is aiming to facilitate GMO detection from plant origin at different phases of the analysis. It assists in selecting the targets for a screening analysis, interpreting the screening results, checking the occurrence of a screening element in a group of selected GMOs, identifying gaps in the available pool of GMO detection methods, and designing a decision tree. The GMOseek matrix is an independent database with effective functionalities in a format facilitating transferability to other platforms. Data were collected from all available sources and experimentally tested where detection methods and certified reference materials (CRMs) were available.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Horizontal gene transfer, Decision theory, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food


Multiple lines of transgenic rice expressing insecticidal genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have been developed in China, posing the prospect of increases in production with decreased application of pesticides. We explore the issues facing adoption of Bt rice for commercial production in China. A body of safety assessment work on Bt rice has shown that Bt rice poses a negligible risk to the environment and that Bt rice products are as safe as non-Bt control rice products as food. China has a relatively well-developed regulatory system for risk assessment and management of genetically modified (GM) plants; however, decision-making regarding approval of commercial production has become politicized, and two Bt rice lines that otherwise were ready have not been allowed to enter the Chinese agricultural system. We predict that Chinese farmers would value the prospect of increased yield with decreased use of pesticide and would readily adopt production of Bt rice. That Bt rice lines may not be commercialized in the near future we attribute to social pressures, largely due to the low level of understanding and acceptance of GM crops by Chinese consumers. Hence, enhancing communication of GM crop science-related issues to the public is an important, unmet need. While the dynamics of each issue are particular to China, they typify those in many countries where adoption of GM crops has been not been rapid; hence, the assessment of these dynamics might inform resolution of these issues in other countries.

Concepts: Bacteria, Risk, Pesticide, Bacillus thuringiensis, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Genetic engineering, Monsanto


Despite the rapid adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops by farmers in many countries, controversies about this technology continue. Uncertainty about GM crop impacts is one reason for widespread public suspicion.

Concepts: Agriculture, Genetically modified organism, Crops, Genetically modified food, Genetic engineering, Crop


Vitamin A deficiency remains one of the world’s major public health problems despite food fortification and supplements strategies. Biofortification of staple crops with enhanced levels of pro-vitamin A (PVA) offers a sustainable alternative strategy to both food fortification and supplementation. As a proof of concept, PVA-biofortified transgenic Cavendish bananas were generated and field trialed in Australia with the aim of achieving a target level of 20 μg/g of dry weight (dw) β-carotene equivalent (β-CE) in the fruit. Expression of a Fe'i banana-derived phytoene synthase 2a (MtPsy2a) gene resulted in the generation of lines with PVA levels exceeding the target level with one line reaching 55 μg/g dw β-CE. Expression of the maize phytoene synthase 1 (ZmPsy1) gene, used to develop “Golden Rice 2”, also resulted in increased fruit PVA levels although many lines displayed undesirable phenotypes. Constitutive expression of either transgene with the maize polyubiquitin promoter increased PVA accumulation from the earliest stage of fruit development. In contrast, PVA accumulation was restricted to the late stages of fruit development when either the banana 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate oxidase or the expansin 1 promoters were used to drive the same transgenes. Wild-type plants with the longest fruit development time had also the highest fruit PVA concentrations. The results from this study suggest that early activation of the rate-limiting enzyme in the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway, as well as extended fruit maturation time, are essential factors to achieve optimal PVA concentrations in banana fruit. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Gene, Starch, Fruit, Genetically modified organism, Staple food, Banana, Bananas, Cavendish banana


Changing the nature, kind and quantity of particular regulatory-RNA molecules through genetic engineering can create biosafety risks. While some genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are intended to produce new regulatory-RNA molecules, these may also arise in other GMOs not intended to express them. To characterise, assess and then mitigate the potential adverse effects arising from changes to RNA requires changing current approaches to food or environmental risk assessments of GMOs. We document risk assessment advice offered to government regulators in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil during official risk evaluations of GM plants for use as human food or for release into the environment (whether for field trials or commercial release), how the regulator considered those risks, and what that experience teaches us about the GMO risk assessment framework. We also suggest improvements to the process.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Evaluation, Genetic pollution, Risk assessment, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Ice-minus bacteria


Fluselenamyl (5), a novel planar benzoselenazole shows traits desirable of enabling noninvasive imaging of Aβ pathophysiology in vivo; labeling of both diffuse (an earlier manifestation of neuritic plaques) and fibrillar plaques in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brain sections, and remarkable specificity for mapping Aβ compared with biomarker proteins of other neurodegenerative diseases. Employing AD homogenates, [(18)F]-9, a PET tracer demonstrates superior (2-10 fold higher) binding affinity than approved FDA tracers, while also indicating binding to high affinity site on Aβ plaques. Pharmacokinetic studies indicate high initial influx of [(18)F]-9 in normal mice brains accompanied by rapid clearance in the absence of targeted plaques. Following incubation in human serum, [(18)F]-9 indicates presence of parental compound up to 3h thus indicating its stability. Furthermore, in vitro autoradiography studies of [(18)F]-9 with AD brain tissue sections and ex vivo autoradiography studies in transgenic mouse brain sections show cortical Aβ binding, and a fair correlation with Aβ immunostaining. Finally, multiphoton- and microPET/CT imaging indicate its ability to penetrate brain and label parenchymal plaques in transgenic mice. Following further validation of its performance in other AD rodent models and nonhuman primates, Fluselenamyl could offer a platform technology for monitoring earliest stages of Aβ pathophysiology in vivo.

Concepts: Brain, Molecular biology, In vivo, Neurology, Neurodegenerative disorders, In vitro, Beta amyloid, Genetically modified organism


Our recent work (Séralini et al., 2012) remains to date the most detailed study involving the life-long consumption of an agricultural genetically modified organism (GMO). This is true especially for NK603 maize for which only a 90-day test for commercial release was previously conducted using the same rat strain (Hammond et al., 2004). It is also the first long term detailed research on mammals exposed to a highly diluted pesticide in its total formulation with adjuvants. This may explain why 75% of our first criticisms arising within a week, among publishing authors, come from plant biologists, some developing patents on GMOs, even if it was a toxicological paper on mammals, and from Monsanto Company who owns both the NK603 GM maize and Roundup herbicide ®. Our study has limits like any one, and here we carefully answer to all criticisms from agencies, consultants and scientists, that were sent to the Editor or to ourselves. At this level, a full debate is biased if the toxicity tests on mammals of NK603 and R obtained by Monsanto Company remain confidential and thus unavailable in an electronic format for the whole scientific community to conduct independent scrutiny of the raw data. In our article, the conclusions of long-term NK603 and Roundup toxicities came from the statistically highly discriminant findings at the biochemical level in treated groups in comparison to controls, because these findings do correspond in an blinded analysis to the pathologies observed in organs, that were in turn linked to the deaths by anatomopathologists. GM NK603 and R cannot be regarded as safe to date.

Concepts: Scientific method, Molecular biology, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Ice-minus bacteria, Glyphosate, Roundup, Monsanto