Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 375, Issue 8, pp 985–993 | Cite as

PCR technology for screening and quantification of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

  • Arne Holst-JensenEmail author
  • Sissel B. Rønning
  • Astrid Løvseth
  • Knut G. Berdal
Special Issue Paper


Although PCR technology has obvious limitations, the potentially high degree of sensitivity and specificity explains why it has been the first choice of most analytical laboratories interested in detection of genetically modified (GM) organisms (GMOs) and derived materials. Because the products that laboratories receive for analysis are often processed and refined, the quality and quantity of target analyte (e.g. protein or DNA) frequently challenges the sensitivity of any detection method. Among the currently available methods, PCR methods are generally accepted as the most sensitive and reliable methods for detection of GM-derived material in routine applications.

The choice of target sequence motif is the single most important factor controlling the specificity of the PCR method. The target sequence is normally a part of the modified gene construct, for example a promoter, a terminator, a gene, or a junction between two of these elements. However, the elements may originate from wildtype organisms, they may be present in more than one GMO, and their copy number may also vary from one GMO to another. They may even be combined in a similar way in more than one GMO. Thus, the choice of method should fit the purpose. Recent developments include event-specific methods, particularly useful for identification and quantification of GM content.

Thresholds for labelling are now in place in many countries including those in the European Union. The success of the labelling schemes is dependent upon the efficiency with which GM-derived material can be detected. We will present an overview of currently available PCR methods for screening and quantification of GM-derived DNA, and discuss their applicability and limitations. In addition, we will discuss some of the major challenges related to determination of the limits of detection (LOD) and quantification (LOQ), and to validation of methods.


Event-specific Validation Detection and quantification limit Real-time PCR Multiplex PCR Reference materials 



This study was financially supported by the European Commissions Framework 5, Quality of Life program, within the project "Reliable, Standardised, Specific, Quantitative Detection of Genetically Modified Food" (QLK1–1999–01301), and a grant from the Research Council of Norway (NFR 136430/130).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arne Holst-Jensen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sissel B. Rønning
    • 1
  • Astrid Løvseth
    • 1
  • Knut G. Berdal
    • 1
  1. 1.National Veterinary InstituteOsloNorway

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