How Scientists Test For Genetically Modified Wheat

By Amelia Templeton

The European Union and Korea have said they will test U.S. shipments of wheat for genetic modification. That’s after last week's report that an unapproved strain of GM wheat developed by Monsanto was found on an Oregon farm. Amelia Templeton reports on how the testing works.

There isn’t a commercially available test on the market that can identify genetically modified wheat.  Scientists use a method called the polymerase chain reaction.

Bob Zemetra is a wheat breeder at Oregon State University. He says Monsanto’s GM wheat has a telltale gene.

“It’s a very sensitive test. If the gene is there you can develop a program to detect it.”

It’s a gene called CP-4 that makes the wheat resistant to herbicides. And usually there’s a little bit of DNA from a cauliflower virus that’s attached, called a promoter. That’s also not found in normal wheat.

Zemetra says a version of the polymerase chain reaction test is already used to monitor shipments of soy and corn. And it could be adapted for wheat shipments.

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