When GMO traits first appeared, and some were cleared for export and some were not, many elevators tested for them. The tests were often boiled down to interpreting readings on paper strips similar to litmus paper strips. Today, elevators serious about detecting GMOs to protect the integrity of their non-GMO product are using methods that are objective, not subjective, and that can give you actual percentages of any one trait present in a sample within a few minutes.
Brian Marten, Crystal Springs Grain LLC, Franklin, recently demonstrated how the test works for two Franklin FFA students preparing for a state demonstration contest. They will present their demonstration in plant and soil science to judges next week at the Indiana State FFA Convention in West Lafayette.
He ground up a sample of non-GMO waxy corn from their storage facility, and showed the students that there was no reaction on the test strips. He purchases strips, technology and service from Envirologix, a leader in providing these types of test for industry.
Since he doesn't have GMO corn on the premises, Marten ground up seed corn to get a sample that would have GMOs that the test would detect. The students assisted in pulling liquid of the ground sample after water was added. Then they placed a bank of test strips into the liquid sample in a testing cup. Each strip on the sample bank of strips is for a different trait. Marten also uses a separate strip for a new trait, which was added after the bank of strips was developed. Whenever new traits come onto the market, Envirologix develops a test that can detect the trait.
It's how about detecting proteins form the traits. Once the test strips have been exposed, he places them in an electronic scanner. The scanner has a display screen, and is actually connected to the wireless Internet. Within seconds, the scanner displays the exact amount of GMOS, if any, in the sample. It broke it down into individual traits, and also shows the total amount. The seed sample had about 11% as a rating. The three traits that were supposed to be in the seed were the three detected by the scanner.
Reports can be generated and printed or emailed. Marten says it's a great way to keep records. He seldom has to reject a load, but each load must be tested and recorded before the truck can dump at his facility. Some of the starch that National Starch produces form the corn is exported, and its crucial that it be GMO-free, he says.