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DNA biosensor for analytical investigation and labelling in food

Contract number : QLK1-2001-00876
Contract type : Shared Cost Project
Total cost : € 1.899.440
EC contribution : € 730.220
Starting date : not yet determined
Duration : 36 Months
Scientific Officer : Barend Verachtert
Project website : not yet available
Dr Helen Berney
National University of Ireland, Cork
National Microelectronics Research Centre
Prospect Row
Tel.: +35321904010
Fax: +35321270271
E-mail: hberney @

The requirement to distinguish GM and non-GM crops has become an increasing burden on EU food processors, retailers and feed merchants, given the labelling requirements demanded by EU legislation (Regulations 258/97 and 1139/98). The non-segregation policy of US farmers and distributors has created a situation in which costly certification processes have to be managed in order to assure the consumer of the correct labelling of foods and food ingredients. Given the increase in the extent of GM crop cultivation worldwide (over 70 million acres in 1998), and within the EU (primarily in Spain and France), the need for labelling and validation of labelling legislation demands efficient and reliable analysis to allow importers, processors and retailers to identify crops which have been genetically modified. The design of rapid and economically viable detection methods based on DNA probes allied to microchip technology will allow validation and identification of GM crops. The added value to the community will come from a number of sources. Obviously, the market for such detection modules will be enormous, both inside and outside of the Community. Equally, the ability to reassure the customer base of the validity of EU labelling legislation will lead to increased confidence in foods of EU origin, with a concomitant increase in sales.

The EU policy can be simply stated in that Regulation 1139/98 requires the development of validated analytical methods. We believe that the combination of technologies, research groups, and industries involved in this proposal can deliver on this vital EU policy objective.


The overall aim of this project is to develop methodologies and sensor arrays for the accurate, sensitive and rapid identification of DNA associated with genetically modified (GM) plant material. Bearing in mind the importance of consumer confidence and the necessity to adequately test and label foods, it is necessary to develop a system, comprising methodologies and state of the art technologies, for high throughput screening of plant materials. It is envisaged that such an approach will ultimately make possible effective monitoring and policing of the distribution and labelling of GM and non-GM foods.

(expected) Results and achievements
  • Development of a DNA release and multiplex PCR protocol
  • Development of a miniaturised detection system based on sensor array technology
  • Development of a handheld instrument for the measurement of output signals from the sensor arrays.


Sy-Lab Geräte, Zubehör und Systeme GmbH
Tullnerbachstraße 61-65
PO Box 47
3002 Purkersdorf
Microzone Ltd
112 Malling Street
BN7 2RJ Lewes
United Kingdom
Bionostra, S.L.
Ronda de Poniente 4, 2 C
28760 Tres Cantos (Madrid)
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Department of Microengineering
Institute of Microsystems
1015 Lausanne

Fifth Framework Programme

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