The Need to Know What’s In a Seed

- Denise Thiede

Since its commercialization, biotechnology has been widely adopted in the United States and around the world, which has led to the need to really understand what technology is or is not present in seed — be it intended traits or unintended.

The presence of unintended biotech material in seed is known as adventitious presence (AP), and companies use testing methods to ensure that the seed they are selling or buying is what they think it is. Countries, too, will test for AP to detect if a trait or event that has not been approved is present.

It’s not just a company’s or a country’s reputation that’s on the line. A mislabeled product or grain shipment containing an unapproved trait can lead to rejected shipments and even lead to the loss of market access, ultimately hurting our customers — the farmer.

At Eurofins, we help seed companies practice good stewardship by providing accurate and reliable testing services to verify seed quality. Eurofins licenses all detection methods from the biotech companies and provides event-specific methods for all commercial products. These detection methods for AP testing use Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR-based technology, to detect a specific event. PCR reactions copy a target sequence and incorporate fluorescent tags that allow the gene sequence to be detected. This copying process is highly specific and accurate. Eurofins offers the appropriate services to the seed industry for both domestic and international seed producers. A pooled-seed or semi-quantitative approach is used to estimate whole seed contamination.

For example, an inbred supplier can confirm that their lines are free of any unintended events using this approach. This verification ensures that the hybrid seed producer will not have any contaminants coming in from the parent lines. Non-GMO seed producers can use this approach to make sure that their seed is free of any biotechnology products. Additionally, AP testing can ensure that the refuge component of a Refuge-in-a-Bag product is free of any insect resistance events. In other words, this testing ensures that the quality of the product is going to meet the customers expectations for a specific market.

PCR technology also provides consistency in method determination when shipping large amounts of seed internationally designed for low-level presence of biotech seed within non-genetically modified shipments. Stringent testing protocols such as this ensure that seed companies are not bringing any unintended events into the field whether domestic or abroad.

It’s important to know what’s in the seed and to use accredited and regulated Eurofins technology because the entire value chain can be impacted around the world.