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Eurofins GeneScan - Detecting unwanted ingredients

Is the rice I bought in the supermarket genetically modified? In the EU, it is mandatory to adequately label genetically modified food or animal feed. Producers who do not comply are not allowed to sell their products. But how can producers make sure that their products are free from genetically modified organisms? The company Eurofins GeneScan GmbH from Freiburg can help.

European consumers want to know what they are eating. Since 2000 in the EU it has been mandatory for food or feed producers to provide accurate information about their products. If their products contain more than 0.9% of genetically modified substances, the packaging has to clearly state that the product contains genetically modified organisms. Cornflakes, soya oil and other food products must not even contain traces of non-approved genetically modified organisms (GMO). That is why it is in the interest of producers to thoroughly check their product or raw material deliveries. However, the majority of producers lack the necessary know-how or the expensive analytical equipment to do so. “And that is where service companies with specialised analytical knowledge come in,” said Andreas Wurz, biologist and managing director of Freiburg-based Eurofins GeneScan GmbH.

A custom-made service

Eurofins GeneScan GmbH analyses whether their clients’ products contain unwanted genetically modified DNA. The company has been active in the field for 15 years and was one of the first companies to undertake DNA analysis in the food and feed sector. GeneScan GmbH has been offering DNA services since 1996 and has been part of Eurofins since 2004. Eurofins integrates more than 100 globally acting laboratories that offer a broad range of skills in the analysis of biological products. “The services offered by the Freiburg company have become very specialised,” said Andreas Wurz, adding that the company mainly tests whether samples that are sent to the company contain GMO DNA. Its laboratories, which are located in the Freiburg BioTechPark, comply with very high standards and cover a broad spectrum of different issues.
Eurofins GeneScan GmbH experts use DNA tests to find out whether food contains traces of genetically modified DNA. (Photo: Eurofins GeneScan GmbH)
For example, if a corn mill, a seed producer or a wholesale bakery contact the Freiburg experts, then the experts will initially discuss with the clients the type of analyses that they need. For example, if the client only needs to know whether a specific food product contains genetically modified DNA, then a simple product screening is perfectly sufficient. This means that a particular DNA stretch of the sample is amplified with PCR (polymerase chain reaction). This DNA stretch contains areas that are typically found in GMOs. If the sample does not contain GMO DNA, then the particular DNA stretch cannot be amplified and the clients can rule out the possibility of their products containing the GMO that was screened for. If the sample tests positive, then further analyses have to be carried out involving the specific detection of one or several specific GMOs. The analysts will then use other PCR methods and look for very specific DNA regions. If required, quantitative analyses can be carried out to determine the extent of GMO contamination. “We have a broad range of different analytical methods available, but each client will be dealt with in a manner that suits their requirements,” said Andreas Wurz.

Up to 500 samples per day

The Eurofins GeneScan GmbH laboratory analyses up to 500 samples daily. (Photo: Eurofins GeneScan GmbH)
When it arrives at the Freiburg laboratory, each sample will undergo a clearly defined path through the GeneScan laboratories. Initially, the sample material will be broken up, the DNA purified and subsequently tested in different analyses. Different safety measures have been put in place to guarantee that all analyses are done smoothly. For example, the individual analytical steps are controlled by a laboratory information and management system (LIMS). This intelligent programme, which can be modified at any time, enables the analysts to adapt the analysis process to the samples to be tested. “It is vital for us to have an automated and standardised method of this kind,” explains Andreas Wurz. “Every day, we receive on average 100 different samples, sometimes even up to 500 and some of them have to be analysed on the same day. In order for the laboratory processes to proceed safely and efficiently, the system has to work faultlessly at any given time.”
Eurofins GeneScan’s philosophy is to guarantee a high quality standard. In order to prevent potential contaminations of the very delicate DNA samples with destructive enzymes, specific hygiene measures have been put in place for all laboratories. Equipment, methods and staff undergo regular controls. Each work step is checked and is completely traceable, as the EU’s DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025 directive, equivalent to a quality label for analyses, specifies. “This uncompromising quality assurance is highly important for us,” said Andreas Wurz. “It is the reason why we have done so well in this market for 15 years.”

Developments of the future

This practical kit is for food producers who wish to test in their laboratories whether their products contain GMO DNA (Photo: Eurofins GeneScan GmbH)
Another reason for the company’s success is the analysis kits that Eurofins GeneScan GmbH offers in addition to their analytical services. Small packages contain all that is needed for rapid DNA analysis. These kits enable clients to carry out rapid tests in their own company or field. Eurofins GeneScan GmbH is constantly undertaking further development of these kits and the analytical methods because new GMOs are constantly entering the global market. In addition, clients also benefit from the company’s method development services, which means that GeneScan develops DNA-based analysis methods and kits according to client requirements, for examples for process controls in the biotech industry.

mn – 14th July 2008
© BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH
Further information:
Andreas Wurz
Managing Director
Eurofins GeneScan GmbH
Engesserstr. 4
79108 Freiburg
Tel.: ++49-(0)761/5038 114
Fax: ++49-(0)761/5038 211
E-mail: a.wurz@genescan.com
Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/eurofins-genescan-detecting-unwanted-ingredients