New ISO standard for detecting genetically modified organisms in food

March 28, 2006

Geneva, Mar 2006

Knowing if a product contains material derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and if so in what quantities, is a concern for many consumers, businesses and legislators. A new ISO standard that gives general requirements for identifying and quantifying genetically modified materials in foods promises to bring transparency to this issue.

ISO 246, Foodstuffs – Methods of analysis for the detection of genetically modified organisms and derived products – General requirements and definitions, lists the following steps that need to be taken after sample collection for analysis:

  • Nucleic acids or proteins are extracted from the test portion;

  • Extracted analytes are further purified;

  • Quantified (if necessary); diluted (if necessary); and,

  • Analyzed using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or other procedures.

The standard's main focus is on the PCR based methodology, a precise method for generating unlimited copies of specific fragment of DNA, but methods using protein as the analytical target are also covered.

It also comprises validation of methods and a check-list of what information the test reports must cover and gives guidelines for laboratory set-up including:

  • Procedural requirements;

  • Laboratory design;

  • Personnel regulations;

  • Apparatus and equipment maintenance; and,

  • Materials and reagents used for analysis.

ISO 246 specifies how to use the standards for protein analysis (ISO 21572), nucleic acid extraction (ISO 21571), qualitative nucleic acid analysis (ISO 21569) and quantitative nucleic acid analysis (ISO 21570) and their relationship in the analysis of genetically modified organisms in foodstuffs.

Though this standard had been established for food matrices, it could also be applied to other areas such as seeds, feed or plant samples from the environment.

ISO 246 was prepared by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) technical committee CEN/TC 5, Food analysis – Horizontal methods, in collaboration with ISO/TC 34, Food products. The standard costs 84 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat (see below).

Enquiries about orders:
Ms. Sonia Rosas Friot
Marketing Services
Tel. +41 22 749 03 36
Fax +41 22 749 09 47

Press contact:
Ms. Antoinette Price
Journalist and Assistant
Editor, ISO Focus
Public Relations
Tel. +41 22 749 01 11
Fax +41 22 733 34 30

International Organization for Standardization -- ISO
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