Development of new GMO detection methods: Call for tenders in frame of the SAFEFOODERA project

This research project, tendered by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL, Germany) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA, UK), is aimed towards the "Development of screening methods of GMO". It will have a maximum duration of two years. Research questions address bioinformatics methods (matrix-approach, amplification methods (PCR) and hybridisation methods (microarrays). The project is funded at 100% of eligible costs.

It can be expected that the available PCR methods that currently are used for GMO detection by enforcement laboratories will not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the GMO-related EU regulations in the future. If all material derived from GMOs should be detected and qualified as EU-authorised or not, the increasing presence and diversity of GMOs in the environment and in the production of food and feed signify a challenge. In particular, the manner remains unclear in which unknown DNA sequences present in “unknown GMO” should be detected.

In order to provide analytical tools suitable for the discovery of multiple and unknown GMOs, new technologies and instruments are needed that offer high throughput detection of such inserts.

Enforcement of the GMO-related EU regulations should be facilitated by GMO detection methods that are faster, simpler and cheaper. More screening methods should be available. Ideally, these methods also should be able to detect the maximum number of GMOs with improved sensitivity and robustness.

Simple methods must be found that provide alternatives to the existing PCR and that are less expensive and more rapid. Also, there is an essential need to evaluate the accessibility, as well as the possible methods of retrieval, of detailed information on modifications that are present in globally-used GMOs. If the quality of collectable data is sufficient, a subsequent step towards the development of broad screening methods will be the establishment of a database that enables the use of bioinformatics search tools.

Proposals should include the following topics:
  • Bioinformatics methods (matrix-approach)
    Building of a database with all available information about GMOs accessible in dossiers and reports, current databases and public websites providing detailed descriptions of the genetic modifications in GMOs and the regulatory elements present in the transgenic constructs in order to develop advanced screening methods and to establish a matrix-based approach to provide the most efficient strategy for GM detection and identification.
  • DNA-based amplification methods (PCR)
    Design and development of screening methods identifying the GM elements to allow fast and less cost-intensive discrimination of EU-authorised GMOs such as new multiplexing detection systems based on micro or nanotechnologies to cover a wide range of possible GMOs. These advanced screening methods have to be in-house performance-validated and also validated in (international) collaborative trials.
  • DNA-based hybridisation methods (microarrays)
    Development of microarrays for the detection of authorised and of unknown GMO, design of appropriate probes tagging all the known regulatory elements (promoters, terminators, enhancers etc.); combination of microarrays with multiplex target amplification approaches and advanced detection methodologies (capillary electrophoresis or NAIMA), including validation of newly developed microarrays and method combinations.

Please note that the FSA will consider the funding of high-quality partners also from outside the UK, whereas the BVL can give funding only to public institutions in Germany.

BVL and FSA will decide jointly on project calls. Deadline is 15 September 2008. Projects should start at the latest on 1 March 2009.

In case of interest please contact Lutz Grohmann (see below).

  • Dr. Lutz Grohmann
    Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL)
    Mauerstrasse 39-42 D-10117 Berlin / Germany
    Phone: +49 (0)30.18444.40510
    Fax: +49-(0)30.18444.40099