GENEDIT - RF20/6342 - Development and evaluation of approaches for detection of organisms modified by new genome editing techniques

Last updated on 8-2-2022 by Hanne Reyners
January 1, 2021
December 31, 2023

In short

Since 2018, organisms produced by genome editing techniques are considered by the European legislation as genetically modified organism (GMO). Therefore, as classical GMO, their commercialisation requires specific detection methods to guarantee the safety and traceability of the feed and food chain. However, such control is expected to be challenging as the edited organisms can differ by one or a few genome variation points, being difficult to distinguish from a natural variation. In this project, different approaches to detect gene-edited organisms will be investigated, in order to strengthen the current GMO control as well as to provide an informed opinion to policy makers and control authorities.

Project summary

Since 2018, organisms produced by new breeding techniques (NBT) like genome editing are considered as genetically modified organism (GMO) by the European legislation. The introduction of GMO and the use of their derived products in the food chain are strictly regulated in Europe and detection methods are required. This constitutes a real challenge as the edited organisms can differ by one or a few nucleotides and it could be difficult to distinguish them from a natural variation. Theoretical approaches were already discussed in the some papers but no real evaluation has been carried out. This project first proposes a state of the art of the situation. This is done by the construction of a database listing the edited organisms and the genes concerned by the modifications. 

The use of the genes as potential markers is evaluated taking into account the genetic diversity of the sequences. The samples used in the project are of 3 types: 

  • samples obtained through contacts with other institutions
  • models created internally
  • processed samples that will mimic commercial samples. 

Different DNA methods are tested for the detection of gradable modifications. A first set of methods was selected as they can easily be implemented in control laboratories: PCR RFLP, real-time PCR, HRM, digital PCR and analytical pyrosequencing. The other DNA approaches is based on High Throughput Sequencing (HTS) using different enrichment methods as amplicon sequencing or the use of capture probes. These HTS methods have the potential to test numerous genes in the same experiment. The DNA methods are being compared to evaluate the practical aspects, advantages and limitations. Finally, the applicability of approaches based on proteins and metabolites are evaluated in function of a screening approach. All these methods should give a clear overview of the possibilities to detect organisms modified by NBT and give an informed opinion to policy makers and control authorities. 

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