Government Chemist Works To Improve GM Rice Testing

The Government Chemist Programme, in LGC, has authored a paper[1] outlining the first available control material to help labs check for false positives when policing imports for genetically modified (GM) rice in food products originating from China.

European law requires laboratory tests for all imported rice consignments and there are currently no GM rice varieties approved for use in the EU but reportedly over 25 varieties that may be a source of contamination .

Dr Malcolm Burns, one of the authors of the paper, said, “Testing for unauthorised GM rice is a complex undertaking and we need to be able to provide assurance that we can prove contamination is present beyond reasonable doubt. This is important not only for consumer confidence but also for the courts, regulators and food businesses. A false positive would mean destroying perfectly good rice. The control material we have developed means that for the first time labs can easily check that their work to avoid false positives is on a sound basis.”

An elaborate process is in place to assess the safety of GM food in the EU and give consumers choice over what they eat. All rice consignments imported into the EU from China are tested for the presence of specific molecular markers associated with genetic modification and when detected consignments must be re-dispatched to the country of origin or destroyed.

Cauliflower Mosaic Virus Key Player In Finding GMO Contaminated RiceThe P-35S promoter sequence, derived from Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV), is one of the genetic elements routinely screened for to infer the presence of GM rice. But this sequence is also present in naturally occurring Cauliflower Mosaic Virus, which can infect plants (such as cauliflower and turnip) affecting plant growth, though it is important to point out that it is harmless to humans.

Thus, to ensure that finding the P-35S promoter sequence implies that a consignment is contaminated with unauthorised GM rice, laboratories need to check that it is not a false positive from naturally occurring Cauliflower Mosaic Virus.

Until now there was no straightforward way of verifying that the tests for the natural virus worked properly in the lab, but in this paper Dr Malcolm Burns and colleagues have reported a suitable control material. A specific DNA sequence from CaMV has been synthesised and inserted into a standard plasmid to provide a suitable control and tested using a validated and EU approved real-time PCR assay. The team was successful in amplifying the DNA target in the CaMV plasmid control with a limit of detection of approximately four copies of the plasmid target.

The full paper is now freely available (open access) from the Journal of the Association of Public Analysts (JAPA) at

Notes to editors

1. The work was carried out under the Government Chemist Programme in LGC funded by the National Measurement Office.

2. The Government Chemist Programme is available if an analytical dispute arises between a food business and enforcement authorities. A retained portion of the control sample may, in statutorily defined circumstances, be submitted as a technical appeal to the Government Chemist for a definitive investigation, ‘referee analysis’.

3. Dr Malcolm Burns is available for interview.

4. On 12 January 2012, Commission Implementing Decision 2011/884/EU was adopted, which describes emergency measures regarding unauthorised genetically modified rice in rice products originating from China. All rice consignments imported into the EU from China are subject to testing for the presence of molecular markers and elements often associated with genetic modification. At present there are no genetically modified (GM) rice varieties approved for use in the European Union, and upon detection consignments containing these genetic elements must be re-dispatched to the country of origin or destroyed. The P-35S promoter sequence, derived from Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV), is one of the genetic elements routinely screened for to infer the presence of GM rice. Guidance in support of the Commission Implementing Decision 2011/884/EU provided by the European Union Reference Laboratory for GMOs in food and feed advocates that appropriate follow on tests be conducted to ensure that the detection of P-35S is not a false positive due to the natural occurrence of CaMV present with the test sample. However, the EURL Guidance does not provide further instruction on what control material can be used to facilitate such a test, creating an analytical void in the correct application of such a test for false positives.

The present study aimed at developing a suitable plasmid control DNA for CaMV. This was analysed alongside appropriate samples that contained P-35S only, using a validated and EU approved real-time PCR assay that could be used as a follow on test for the detection of Chinese GM rice varieties. The assay was successful in amplifying the DNA target in the CaMV plasmid control with a limit of detection of approximately four copies of the plasmid target. All other sample templates that contained just P-35S produced no detectable amplification. This illustrates the use of the CaMV plasmid DNA as an appropriate control material in conjunction with EU approved tests for the detection of false positives arising from the application of the P-35S test for the detection of Chinese GM rice varieties in support of the relevant legislation.

About LGC

LGC ( is the international science-based company and market leader in the laboratory services, measurement standards, reference materials and proficiency testing marketplaces. LGC operates in a variety of markets – including, but not confined to, Food & Agriculture, Government, Pharmaceuticals and Biopharmaceuticals and Sports – which underpin the safety, health and security of the public and the regulation of industry, for both private and public sector clients.

With headquarters in Teddington, South West London, LGC employs over 2000 staff, operating out of 22 countries worldwide. Its operations are extensively accredited to international quality standards such as ISO/IEC 17025.

Set up in 1842 as the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, for more than 100 years LGC has held the unique function of the Government Chemist in the UK. LGC was privatised in 1996 and is now majority-owned by funds managed by Bridgepoint.

For further information please contact:

Julian Quigley

Press & Communications Officer


Queens Road

The Science Of Hangovers

Hangovers are no fun, we all know that, but why is this the case? Scishow explains how there are

three reasons in play that make you feel miserable after a night of drinking.

Public education goes hand in hand with public health. This is the best example of an easy

first step to take. Pass it on.


School Snacks Get U.S. Gov’t Makeover

school vending machine wall

Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Mike Hutmacher, File

What a concept, food education occurring in schools.  It sounds like it’s one small step for man and if things go well, maybe one big step for mankind, or at least for mankind’s children. Now if we can educate them about GMO foods we just might have something.

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Kids, your days of blowing off those healthier school lunches and filling up on cookies from the vending machine are numbered. The government is onto you.

For the first time, the Agriculture Department is telling schools what sorts of snacks they can sell. The new restrictions announced Thursday fill a gap in nutrition rules that allowed many students to load up on fat, sugar and salt despite the existing guidelines for healthy meals.

“Parents will no longer have to worry that their kids are using their lunch money to buy junk food and junk drinks at school,” said Margo Wootan, a nutrition lobbyist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest who pushed for the new rules.

That doesn’t mean schools will be limited to doling out broccoli and brussels sprouts.

Snacks that still make the grade include granola bars, low-fat tortilla chips, fruit cups and 100 per cent fruit juice. And high school students can buy diet versions of soda, sports drinks and iced tea.

But say goodbye to some beloved school standbys, such as doughy pretzels, chocolate chip cookies and those little ice cream cups with their own spoons. Some may survive in low-fat or whole wheat versions. The idea is to weed out junk food and replace it with something with nutritional merit.

The bottom line, says Wootan:  “There has to be some food in the food.”

Still, 17-year-old Vanessa Herrera is partial to the Cheez-It crackers and sugar-laden Vitaminwater in her high school’s vending machine. Granola bars and bags of peanuts? Not so much.

“I don’t think anyone would eat it,” said Herrera of Rockaway, N.J.

There are no vending machines at Lauren Jones’ middle school in Hoover, Ala., but she said there’s an “a la carte” stand that sells chips, ice cream and other snacks.

“Having something sweet to go with your meal is good sometimes,” the 13-year-old said, although she also thinks that encouraging kids to eat healthier is worthwhile.

The federal snack rules don’t take effect until the 2014-15 school year, but there’s nothing to stop schools from making changes earlier.

Some students won’t notice much difference. Many schools already are working to improve their offerings. Thirty-nine states have some sort of snack food policy in place.

Rachel Snyder, 17, said earlier this year her school in Washington, Ill., stripped its vending machines of sweets. She misses the pretzel-filled M&M’s.

“If I want a sugary snack every now and then,” Snyder said, “I should be able to buy it.”

The federal rules put calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits on almost everything sold during the day at 100,000 schools – expanding on the previous rules for meals. The Agriculture Department sets nutritional standards for schools that receive federal funds to help pay for lunches, and that covers nearly every public school and about half of private ones.

One oasis of sweetness and fat will remain: Anything students bring from home, from bagged lunches to birthday cupcakes, is exempt from the rules.

The Agriculture Department was required to draw up the rules under a law passed by Congress in 2010, championed by first lady Michelle Obama, as part of the government’s effort to combat childhood obesity.

Nutritional guidelines for subsidized lunches were revised last year and put in place last fall.

school salad bar

Last year’s rules making main lunch fare more nutritious faced criticism from some conservatives, including some Republicans in Congress, who said the government shouldn’t be telling kids what to eat. Mindful of that backlash, the Agriculture Department left one of the more controversial parts of the rule, the regulation of in-school fundraisers like bake sales, up to the states.

The rules have the potential to transform what many children eat at school.

Prevention Of Poor Lifestyle Habits Best Tackled Before 13 Years

In addition to meals already subject to nutrition standards, most lunchrooms also have “a la carte” lines that sell other foods – often greasy foods like mozzarella sticks and nachos. That gives students a way to circumvent the healthy lunches. Under the rules, those lines could offer healthier pizzas, low-fat hamburgers, fruit cups or yogurt and similar fare.

One of the biggest changes will be a near-ban on high-calorie sports drinks. Many beverage companies added sports drinks to school vending machines after sodas were pulled in response to criticism from the public health community.

The rule would only allow sales in high schools of sodas and sports drinks that contain 60 calories or less in a 12-ounce serving, banning the highest-calorie versions of those beverages.

Low-calorie sports drinks – Gatorade’s G2, for example – and diet drinks will be allowed in high school.

Elementary and middle schools will be allowed to sell only water, carbonated water, 100 per cent fruit or vegetable juice, and low fat and fat-free milk, including nonfat flavoured milks.

Republicans have continued to scrutinize the efforts to make school foods healthier, and at a House subcommittee hearing Thursday, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., said the “stringent rules are creating serious headaches for schools and students.”  (Not to mention county health agencies, the medical community, airline seat manufacturers, paramedics and the list goes on. Guess we better not mess with regulations when it comes to optimal health. We wouldn’t want to mess with somebody’s subsidy).

One school nutritionist testified that her school has had difficulty adjusting to the 2012 changes, and the new “a la carte” standards could also be a hardship.

The healthier foods are expensive, said Sandra Ford, president of the School Nutrition Association and director of food and nutrition services for a school district in Bradenton, Fla. She also predicted that her school district could lose $975,000 a year under the new “a la carte” guidelines because they would have to eliminate many of the popular foods they sell.  What, we’re worried that junk food manufacturer dollars going to the schools might dry up? Isn’t that the point here?  (I wonder how many by pass surgeries avoided that might work out to be.)

students enjoying their school salad bar Riverside, CA Unified School District had implemented a la carte school salad bars years ago. They discovered that the kids loved the a la carte option. They learned what foods to eat and how much. Once the district agreed to pay the farmers in 30 days, organic agriculture production went from two acres to over 40 in a matter of two or three years. Now when the middle school kids get to high school and there isn’t a salad bar, they’re educated and a little pissed off at the same time. Now that’s education.

In a report released at the hearing, the Government Accountability Office said that in some districts students were having trouble adjusting to the new foods, leading to increased waste and kids dropping out of the school lunch program.

The food industry has been onboard with many of the changes, and several companies worked with Congress on the child nutrition law three years ago.

Angela Chieco, a mother from Clifton Park, N.Y., sees the guidelines as a good start but says it will take a bigger campaign to wean kids off junk food.

“I try to do less sugar myself,” Chieco said. “It’s hard to do.”

Associated Press writer Stacy A. Anderson contributed to this report.

Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at

Follow Connie Cass on Twitter at

Center For Food Safety Launches Class Action Suit Against Monsanto

GMO Contaminated Wheat FieldsYou probably read the news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that unapproved, genetically engineered (GE) wheat was found contaminating an Oregon farmer’s field.  The GE wheat, known as Roundup Ready, was developed by the Monsanto Company to withstand direct application of Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide, and was never approved for sale.

The discovery of unapproved Roundup Ready wheat in a farmer’s field in Oregon, years after Monsanto terminated field testing, is just the latest example of Monsanto’s inability to keep their engineered genes under control.  Until Monsanto and USDA begin to take gene flow from field tests more seriously, we can expect GE contamination to continue to cause havoc.

CFS is not standing idly by hoping Monsanto and USDA do the right thing. We are taking action. Center for Food Safety and Pacific Northwest wheat farmers have filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto. Center for Food Safety and Pacific Northwest wheat farmers are representing the broad class of farmers affected by this contamination, seeking monetary compensation for farmers who have lost export markets, and forcing Monsanto to take measures to clean up the contamination and ensure it never happens again.

This is a pivotal moment for the food movement, and we can’t do this work without your support! Together we can stand up to Monsanto and hold them accountable.

As we’ve warned for over a decade, GE crops simply can’t be controlled once they’re released into the environment. Past transgenic contamination episodes involving GE corn and GE rice triggered over $1 billion in losses and economic hardship to farmers, and recalls of food products containing illegal GE corn. CFS has been there every time, fighting in the courts, in the halls of Congress, and in communities to protect our food, our farms, and our environment from these risky GE crops.

With your support, we’ve been working to hold biotech companies like Monsanto accountable and tighten regulations over their experimental GE crop field trials for over a decade. And we’ve had a lot of successes — like our past litigation over similar field trials in Oregon and Hawaii for other GE crops in which we won substantial victories over USDA and industry for their field trial abuses and failures. Because of this litigation, we now have the legal ability to challenge the legality of field trials, and USDA can no longer ignore their environmental and socioeconomic impacts. We’ve even forced USDA to publicly admit new field trial contamination incidents, like this one, that they otherwise tried to keep secret.

We can do so much more, but we need your help to succeed. Please make a donation to support our groundbreaking work today!

Feds Seize Banned Supplement DMAA From GNC Warehouse

By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

More than 1,500 cases of products containing the banned dietary supplement known as DMAA, stored in a GNC Holdings warehouse in Leetsdale, are subject to a federal seizure complaint filed today in U.S. District Court.

DMAA Dietary SupplementThe civil complaint indicates that the Food and Drug Administration inspected the warehouse from June 4 through June 10, collecting samples, photographing boxes and examining shipping labels. On June 11, the FDA notified GNC that the 1,542 cases of Jack3d and OxyElite Pro Super Thermogenic are, under the law, considered adulterated.

The complaint said they contain dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, which the FDA in April declared to be unsafe. That declaration followed reports of deaths, including several on military bases, of people whose fitness regimens included use of DMAA.

The products are made by the Texas company USPLabs.

“The two detained products, Jack3d and Oxyelite Pro, are third party products,” a GNC spokesman wrote in an email response to questions. “They represent a very small fraction of products at the Leetsdale facility.

“GNC believes that DMAA is a safe, legal dietary ingredient,” GNC’s statement continued. “The products are widely available over the Internet and through various retailers across the country. We are unaware if FDA has detained these same products in other retailers’ distribution facilities.”

GNC, the statement continued, will not distribute the products until the dispute over their safety, between the FDA and USPlabs, is resolved.

The filing of the complaint requires that GNC keep the product in its warehouse during the litigation. If a judge approves the forfeiture complaint, the products must be destroyed. If it is not approved, the products can be sold.

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