No reliable test for genetically modified foods

Published April 1, 2000

“No one should pretend that food labeling claiming a product is GM-free can be reliable, since the current variation in results between laboratory tests on GM foods is too wide,” said Dr. Richard Worswick, chief executive of the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, an independent laboratory that advises the government of the United Kingdom.

According to Worswick, food processing so dramatically affects food DNA, in altered foods as well as those that haven’t been altered, that GM foods cannot be readily identified with current test methods. False negatives and false positives can easily occur. At most, tests can only assure that the DNA is not detectable above a certain level.

In January, the European Commission approved a new rule that would require labels on all foods containing at least 1 percent genetically modified soybeans or corn. The rule did not specify how foods would be tested for GM content.