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Concept: Genetically modified organisms


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



Worldwide, qualitative methods based on PCR are most commonly used as screening tools for genetically modified material in food and feed. However the increasing number and diversity of genetically modified organisms (GMO) require effective methods for simultaneously detecting several genetic elements marking the presence of transgenic events. Herein we describe the development and validation of a pentaplex, as well as complementary triplex and duplex real-time PCR assays for the detection of the most common screening elements found in commercialized GMOs: P-35S, T-nos, ctp2-cp4-epsps, bar and pat. The use of these screening assays allows covering many GMO events globally approved for commercialization. Each multiplex real-time PCR assay shows high specificity and sensitivity with an absolute limit of detection below 20 copies for the targeted sequences. We demonstrate by intra- and inter-laboratory tests that the assays are robust as well as cost- and time-effective for GMO screening if applied in routine GMO analysis.

Concepts: Gene expression, Molecular biology, Horizontal gene transfer, Sensitivity and specificity, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Genetically modified organisms, Ice-minus bacteria


Public opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) remains strong. By contrast, studies demonstrate again and again that GM crops make a valuable contribution to the development of a sustainable type of agriculture. The discrepancy between public opinion and the scientific evidence requires an explanation. We argue that intuitive expectations about the world render the human mind vulnerable to particular misrepresentations of GMOs. We explain how the involvement of particular intuitions accounts for the popularity, persistence, and typical features of GM opposition and tackle possible objections to our approach. To conclude, we discuss the implications for science education, science communication, and the environmental movement.

Concepts: Scientific method, Gene expression, Agriculture, Horizontal gene transfer, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Genetically modified organisms, Golden rice


The public discourse on the acceptability of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is not only controversial, but also infused with highly emotional and moralizing rhetoric. Although the assessment of risks and benefits of GMOs must be a scientific exercise, many debates on this issue seem to remain impervious to scientific evidence. In many cases, the moral psychology attributes of the general public create incentives for both GMO opponents and proponents to pursue misleading public campaigns, which impede the comprehensive assessment of the full spectrum of the risks and benefits of GMOs. The ordonomic approach to economic ethics introduced in this research note is helpful for disentangling the socio-economic and moral components of the GMO debate by re- and deconstructing moral claims.

Concepts: Gene expression, Molecular biology, Horizontal gene transfer, Morality, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Genetically modified organisms, Ice-minus bacteria


The DNA target sequence is the key element in designing detection methods for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Unfortunately this information is frequently lacking, especially for unauthorized GMOs. In addition, patent sequences are generally poorly annotated, buried in complex and extensive documentation and hard to link to the corresponding GM event. Here, we present the JRC GMO-Amplicons, a database of amplicons collected by screening public nucleotide sequence databanks by in silico determination of PCR amplification with reference methods for GMO analysis. The European Union Reference Laboratory for Genetically Modified Food and Feed (EU-RL GMFF) provides these methods in the GMOMETHODS database to support enforcement of EU legislation and GM food/feed control. The JRC GMO-Amplicons database is composed of more than 240 000 amplicons, which can be easily accessed and screened through a web interface. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt at pooling and collecting publicly available sequences related to GMOs in food and feed. The JRC GMO-Amplicons supports control laboratories in the design and assessment of GMO methods, providing inter-alia in silico prediction of primers specificity and GM targets coverage. The new tool can assist the laboratories in the analysis of complex issues, such as the detection and identification of unauthorized GMOs. Notably, the JRC GMO-Amplicons database allows the retrieval and characterization of GMO-related sequences included in patents documentation. Finally, it can help annotating poorly described GM sequences and identifying new relevant GMO-related sequences in public databases. The JRC GMO-Amplicons is freely accessible through a web-based portal that is hosted on the EU-RL GMFF website.Database URL:

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Horizontal gene transfer, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Genetically modified organisms, Golden rice


The monitoring of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a primary step of GMO regulation. However, there is presently a lack of effective and high throughput methodologies for specifically and sensitively monitoring most of the commercialized GMOs. Herein, we developed a Multiplex Amplification on a Chip with Readout on an Oligo microarray (MACRO) system specifically for convenient GMO monitoring. This system is composed of a microchip for multiplex amplification and an oligo microarray for the readout of multiple amplicons, containing a total of 91 targets (18 universal elements, 20 exogenous genes, 45 events, and 8 endogenous reference genes) that covers 97.1% of all GM events that have been commercialized up to 2012.We demonstrate that the specificity of MACRO is ~100%, with a limit of detection (LOD) that is suitable for real-world applications. Moreover, the results obtained of simulated complex samples and blind samples with MACRO were 100% consistent with expectations and the results of independently performed real-time PCRs, respectively. Thus, we believe MACRO is the first system that can be applied for effectively monitoring the majority of the commercialized GMOs in a single test.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Horizontal gene transfer, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified food, Genetically modified organisms, Ice-minus bacteria


Over the past few years, genetically modified organisms (GMO) have gradually become more familiar after numerous reports of problems with GMO safety, such as genetically modified (GM) potatoes disrupting immunity, GM corn inducing tumors, and GM rice being fed to unwitting Chinese children. Every time, these reports cause panic among the population and lead to objections to GMO in various fora. After each incident, the scientific community has delivered its academic appraisal and refuted rumors through slow and cautious investigations and evaluations. Unfortunately, during each event media outlets quickly scare the public about food safety and ignore the ensuing comments from scientists. Although scientists have investigated each GMO crisis and reached scientific and rational conclusions, they have less ability to disseminate information than the media, so the public is not promptly informed of their rational and objective viewpoints as experts. Thus, scientists need greater ability to disseminate information from scientific investigations and evaluations in order to correct the intemperate reporting by attention-seeking media.

Concepts: Gene expression, Horizontal gene transfer, Science, Genetically modified organism, Mass media, Genetically modified food, Genetically modified organisms, Ice-minus bacteria


The formation of Aβ is directly controlled by the γ-secretase complex and its activator, γ-secretase activating protein (GSAP). GSAP derives from a C-terminal fragment of a larger precursor protein via a caspase-3 mediated cleavage. However, the mechanism regulating this process remains unknown. Here we provide in vitro experimental evidence that 5-Lipoxygenase (5LO) is as an endogenous regulator for GSAP formation, but not for other known γ-secretase modulators, by directly and specifically activating caspase-3. These results were confirmed in vivo by using transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease in which 5LO level and activity were modulated genetically or pharmacologically. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that GSAP cleavage via caspase-3 is regulated and depend upon the availability of 5LO further establishing this protein as an attractive and viable therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease.

Concepts: Gene expression, In vivo, Peptide, In vitro, Regulation, Amyloid precursor protein, Genetically modified organisms, Regulatory agency


Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative disorders of the elderly and ageing hence described to be a major risk factor. Telomere shortening as a result of the inability to fully replicate the ends of linear chromosomes is one of the hallmarks of ageing. The role of telomere dysfunction in neurological diseases and the ageing brain is not clarified and there is an ongoing discussion whether telomere shortening is linked to Parkinson’s disease. Here we studied a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease (Thy-1 [A30P] α-synuclein transgenic mouse model) in the background of telomere shortening (Terc knockout mouse model). α-synuclein transgenic mice with short telomeres (αSYN(tg/tg) G3Terc(-/-)) developed an accelerated disease with significantly decreased survival. This accelerated phenotype of mice with short telomeres was characterized by a declined motor performance and an increased formation of α-synuclein aggregates. Immunohistochemical analysis and mRNA expression studies revealed that the disease end-stage brain stem microglia showed an impaired response in αSYN(tg/tg) G3Terc(-/-) microglia animals. These results provide the first experimental data that telomere shortening accelerates α-synuclein pathology that is linked to limited microglia function in the brainstem.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Senescence, Neurology, Genetically modified organism, Genetically modified organisms