How Scientists Test For Genetically Modified Wheat

Jun 3, 2013

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 genetically modified wheat developed by Monsanto was found on an Oregon farm.

Scientists use a method called the polymerase chain reaction to identify genetically modified wheat.
Credit Gary Halvorson / Wikimedia Commons

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," Zemetra says. "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.

Copyright 2013 Oregon Public Broadcasting