Current European legislation requires the labelling of products derived from GMOs or that contain GMOs above a threshold of 0.9 %. Reliable methods for the quantification of the relative GMO content therefore are essential.
According to a recommendation by the European Network of GMO Laboratories (ENGL), such quantification is conducted by calculating the number of GMO specific sequences per Haploid Genome Equivalent (HGE). This type of measurement also requires detection methods for taxon (plant species) specific reference genes used as an internal standard.
A variety of identification systems for taxa have been developed worldwide. To date, their non-harmonisation results in redundancy among available detection systems, a lack of reliability among quantification methods and, furthermore, the cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming validation procedure executed on quantification methods by JRC’s Community Reference Laboratory for Genetically Modified Food and Feed (CRL-GMFF) in cooperation with ENGL.
While of particular concern to the scientists working in the EU FP6-funded research program Co-Extra and to ENGL members, this situation is recognized by all stakeholders in the area of GMO detection.
To discuss strategies towards the harmonisation of taxa identification systems, a meeting in Brussels on January 23rd brought together Co-Extra partners, including JRC, ISTA, EuropaBio and several associated members as well as a number of external laboratories.
The participants decided to launch a temporary task force (February 2008 - February 2009) that, among other activities, will establish a core collection of taxa reference systems. Interested parties are invited to join this task force. This proposal provides the first practical opportunity to harmonize reference systems for different taxa and to improve consumer confidence by reduction of the costs and uncertainties of GMO detection.