Genetic ID launches alliance to set standards for GMO testing

by Emily Wilson
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FAIRFIELD, ILLINOIS, U.S. — Laboratories in the United States, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Europe recently joined an alliance to set uniform, worldwide standards for GMO testing. The Global Laboratory Alliance was established by the U.S.-based Genetic ID, Inc., a pioneer in testing for genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Among the first labs to join the alliance were FALCO Biosystems, Ltd., the fourth-largest laboratory in Japan; Agrifood Technology, an Australian testing laboratory for the feed grain and food industries and a partner with the Australian Wheat Board; Biotest Pty. Ltd., a leading food testing laboratory for Western Australia; and the Taiwan and Hong Kong labs of Intertek Testing Services, a London-based commodities and product testing company with labs in 85 countries.

Genetic ID is based in Fairfield and has laboratories in the U.S. and Japan as well as licensed labs in Asia, Australia and the European Union.

The alliance includes commercial, government and in-house corporate laboratories. Including all three types of labs ensures that GMO testing is consistent among them to reduce risks for food producers and facilitate trade, said Bill Witherspoon, chief executive officer of Genetic ID.

"The food industry faces a high-risk situation due to lack of uniform standards," he said. "Without standardization, there is chaos."

Exporters face unprecedented challenges as each nation creates its own list of unapproved varieties and labeling thresholds for GMOs, he added. Food exported to nations with GMO restrictions, such as Japan and the European Union, must pass at least two GMO tests.

Genetic ID's proprietary, DNA-based technology can detect as little as two molecules of genetically modified DNA and can identify all the commercialized GM varieties of grains, fruits, and vegetables, the company said. Its Varietal ID tests are able to identify the seven GM corn varieties unapproved in Japan and the 11 varieties unapproved in the E.U.

Testing protocols guard against false positives and false negative results by basing reported results on a minimum of 28 separate measurements, the company said.

Members of the alliance have access to Genetic ID's ongoing research and development program, which tracks and develops tests for every new genetically modified crop. Alliance labs also participate in ring trials to guarantee standardized testing.