The FOODPRINT project develops collaborative research on gene-editing detection methods in the context of traceability and labelling of genetically modified (GM) products throughout the food chain. Gene editing is a novel technique of genetic modification that is currently being regulated under the European Union (EU) Directive 2001/18/EC and by the Norwegian Gene Technology Act. The project is developing detection, identification and quantification methods that can fulfil the analytical requirements for implementation within the EU. Thus, by enabling proper food labelling and segregation of GM and non-GM food sources, the project will contribute to knowledge-based decision-making, to enhancing food safety, and expanding sustainability and competitiveness within the sector.
Gene-edited soybean lines have been produced to contain a single nucleotide change in the CPR5 gene. This is a model gene in the species which triggers the developed of trichomes (hairy structures) in the soybean leaves. Therefore, a mutation of this gene can be easily observed in regenerated gene-edited lines. Currently, researchers at FoodPrint are working on sorting the correct edited cells using a cell sorting machine (flow cytometer) based on a fluorescent tag. Sorted cells will be the grown to mutant plants.
Comparative detection methods based on real-time quantitative PCR are being design to contain several different chemistries so that they can be compared for the best fit-for-purpose method. Researchers are also looking into new challenges for testing these methods not only in the target mutant gene but also similar genes and, thus, test the method specificity in highly similar food matrices. These analytical methods are being developed in collaboration with researchers from Austria, Brazil and Lebanon that have large experience with GM detection routine analyses.
Stakeholders and advisors from academia, industry and regulatory agencies in Europe and Brazil are being constantly requested to provide inputs and updates on our methodological approach through periodical meetings and online exchanges through our communications platforms. We have also launched our project webpage. Please visit www.foodprintproject.org
FOODPRINT advances knowledge on gene-editing traceability and labelling in the context of the Norwegian food chain. It aims to have this knowledge help the industry to expand sustainability and competitiveness within the sector. It is also relevant to decision-makers in developing biotechnology regulations to meet the societal challenge of promoting effective food-choices.
Gene-editing products are now considered genetically modified organisms (GMO) under the European GMO legislation and the Norwegian Gene Technology Act. Regulatory compliance requires that gene-editing products entering the food market need to be traced and labelled. However, it is anticipated that the current European Union (EU) harmonized system for GMO detection might not be suitable to determine gene-editing identification due to the lack of transgenic DNA sequences within it. FOODPRINT investigates how the different gene-editing DNA outcomes impact their detection, test which parameters are necessary to generate effective, reliable and operational gene-editing unique identifiers, and how new and alternative detection methods can improve the current mandatory EU GMO detection approach.
We propose the analysis of other genetic layers of information, such as the proteome and metabolome, to serve as new and reliable gene-editing biomarkers. For proof of concept, we will use a model system based on Crispr/Cas9 modified soybean lines and the non-GM near-isogenic line as a comparator for the molecular profiling analysis. In addition, the project aims at developing a flexible multicriteria decision analysis model (MCDA matrix) suitable for the evaluation and comparison of a variety of changing analytical methods. Besides technical experts, also field-related, application-oriented scientists and the industry will actively participate in determining the user requirements for the methods to be developed, also in the light of current and future Norwegian and European regulations.