New trends in bioanalytical tools for the detection of genetically modified organisms: an update
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- Michelini, E., Simoni, P., Cevenini, L. et al. Anal Bioanal Chem (2008) 392: 355. doi:10.1007/s00216-008-2193-7
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Despite the controversies surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the production of GM crops is increasing, especially in developing countries. Thanks to new technologies involving genetic engineering and unprecedented access to genomic resources, the next decade will certainly see exponential growth in GMO production. Indeed, EU regulations based on the precautionary principle require any food containing more than 0.9% GM content to be labeled as such. The implementation of these regulations necessitates sampling protocols, the availability of certified reference materials and analytical methodologies that allow the accurate determination of the content of GMOs. In order to qualify for the validation process, a method should fulfil some criteria, defined as “acceptance criteria” by the European Network of GMO Laboratories (ENGL). Several methods have recently been developed for GMO detection and quantitation, mostly based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology. PCR (including its different formats, e.g., double competitive PCR and real-time PCR) remains the technique of choice, thanks to its ability to detect even small amounts of transgenes in raw materials and processed foods. Other approaches relying on DNA detection are based on quartz crystal microbalance piezoelectric biosensors, dry reagent dipstick-type sensors and surface plasmon resonance sensors. The application of visible/near-infrared (vis/NIR) spectroscopy or mass spectrometry combined with chemometrics techniques has also been envisaged as a powerful GMO detection tool. Furthermore, in order to cope with the multiplicity of GMOs released onto the market, the new challenge is the development of routine detection systems for the simultaneous detection of numerous GMOs, including unknown GMOs.