Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

July 28, 1999

Test can detect GMOs in soybeans

For the first time in Canada, testing is available to detect the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in soybeans.

The University of Guelph's Laboratory Services is offering the first commercial test that detects GMOs in food products containing soybeans.

The GMO-check Soya Test Kit was released by Strategic Diagnostics Inc. (SDI) early this year, in conjunction with Monsanto, which produces GMO soybean seed. "There is a strong need for such a commercial test in Canada, especially with the increase in production of GM soybeans, " said Shu Chen, the researcher from the University's Molecular Supercentre who tested the diagnostic kit. The kit has now been tested and validated for accuracy by 37 laboratories in the European Union (EU). It is the only quantitative EU-validated kit available for the detection of GM soybeans.

The Soya Test Kit uses a technique called ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay), which detects the protein expressed in Monsanto's Roundup Ready® variant of soybeans. The most popular GM soybean seeds on the market are resistant to Roundup®, a commonly used herbicide.

The Ontario Soybean Growers' Marketing Board estimates that 10 to 20 per cent of the 2.1 million acres of soybeans planted in the province this year were genetically modified. The test is poised to be a boon for soybean exporters. Currently, food products containing GMOs that are exported to the EU must be clearly labelled, and many consumers are now demanding the option to choose between genetically modified and non-genetically modified foods. This new validated test to detect the modified soybeans could give Canadian food exporters a competitive edge.

Soybean producers who test their crops for GMOs must submit a sampling plan, and the number of samples tested varies with the size of each lot. A minimum of two kilograms of soybean plants is required for each test sample. Previously, the samples had to be sent to the United States for testing — a process that was both costly and time-consuming.

"This new kit will make testing for genetically modified soybeans much cheaper and more convenient for producers," said John Lynch, marketing manager at Laboratory Services. In the future, researchers at Laboratory Services hope to develop a more universal test involving DNA technology — a single kit that could detect multiple GMOs in various commodities.

Contact: Shu Chen, University of Guelph Laboratory Services (519) 767-6319

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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