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Leading the World in GM Fish Detection

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Fast, reliable testing for genetically-modified fish

Commercial development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is on the increase, with maize and soy just two examples. The emergence onto the market of the first GM animal for human consumption – a salmon – means increased calls for clarity on the sale of GM produce. Eurofins responded with the introduction of the world’s first commercial test for detection of this genetically modified fish.

GM salmon must be reared in closed fish farms without access to open water, to guarantee separation from non-GM fish. The first GM salmon, AquAdvantage®, found its way onto the Canadian market, and consumers’ plates, in 2017, sold by producer AquaBounty Technologies. The salmon was modified by the introduction of a growth hormone regulating gene from another salmon species (Pacific Chinook) to aid faster growth of the fish.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved the GM salmon for consumption in the US in November 2015. The product had also received approval for sale in Canada in May 2016 and, according to Canadian law, does not need to be labelled. Meanwhile, political battles and the absence of labelling requirements led US Congress to halt sales in early 2016, and introduction into the US market is now planned for 2019. The salmon is currently not approved for sale in the European Union, further increasing calls for detection tests.

The producer announced in August 2017 that its sales had reached 4.5 tons of GM salmon. Eurofins GeneScan responded with the rapid introduction of the analytic test AquAdvantage® salmon modification, a very specific and highly sensitive novel test to detect the genetic modification in salmon. The method is able to detect minute quantities of the material in a sample, and to distinguish genetically modified salmon from un-modified.

Eurofins GeneScan Technologies offers a full commercial detection kit for the modified salmon. This testing kit specifically detects the genetic modification present in AquAdvantage® salmon and just a minute quantity of the fish is required. When this is combined with an efficient DNA extraction method, the detection of GM material is possible even in highly processed samples. The test kit can be used flexibly with existing common DNA extraction methods and alongside one of the world’s broadest and fastest-growing portfolios of existing GMO tests developed by Eurofins GeneScan Technologies.

Eurofins GeneScan, located in Freiburg, Germany, represents Eurofins’ GMO testing competence centre and offers tests for all commercialised GMOs, including GM maize, soy, canola, rapeseed, cotton and rice.

The science behind

The Eurofins GeneScan test is based on real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The high specificity of PCR is achieved by the use of so-called primers, short single-stranded DNA fragments, which are specific for the target DNA sequence and help amplify the target DNA sequence that is located between the two primer sequences. Whereas conventional PCR uses gel electrophoresis to make the amplified products visible, state-of-the-art real-time PCR methods use a so-called probe which is a further single-stranded DNA molecule labelled with a fluorescent reporter dye at one end and a quencher molecule at the other. The DNA polymerase, an enzyme necessary for the PCR process, degrades the probe, releasing the fluorescent reporter molecule and therefore leading to an increase in fluorescence which can be measured in real-time.