Test to spot modified foods

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The Independent Online
A BRITISH company is offering the first DNA test which will allow consumers to find out whether the food they are eating contains genetically modified materials.

Responding to growing consumer concern, a joint venture between Nuclyx, a British molecular biology company, and the Leatherhead Food Research Association will allow supermarket chains to order tests on common brands of milk, bread, biscuits, cakes and other items which may contain genetically- modified (GM) soya grown in the US. Such testing means food manufacturers could reassure the public that their products are made without GM ingredients, based on an independent tester's verdict.

Although Government scientists say GM foods pose no risk to health, consumer surveys have repeatedly shown that people want to know if their food contains GM products

US soya producers have refused to separate out a new soya developed by the agrochemical company Monsanto which contains a gene making it resistant to a herbicide - also made by Monsanto. Instead it is mixed in to the overall soya crop, so that food containing soya products, including bread, biscuits, cakes and soya milk, could contain some of the GM soya.

The test uses magnetic beads which are covered in a chemical that attaches itself to particular gene or protein sequences. The beads are placed in a liquid mix of the product, and then extracted using a simple magnet. By "amplifying" the DNA found on the beads, testers can determine whether the product uses particular GM components. Because it requires laboratory conditions to be reliable, it is unlikely that consumer versions of the test will be available soon.