First open source detection test for a gene-edited GM crop

- Together with Greenpeace, other organisations, GMO-free associations and the SPAR Austria commercial chain, Verband Lebensmittel ohne GenTechnik e.V. (VLOG) has published the world’s first open source detection method for a plant with a genome modified using the “new” genetic engineering process.

The method is intended to detect a genetically modified variety of rapeseed/canola produced by genome editing. This refutes the claims of the genetic engineering industry and some European authorities that crop plants produced by the “new” genetic engineering process can generally not be distinguished from naturally grown plants – and therefore cannot be regulated under existing EU genetic engineering law. VLOG and Greenpeace call on German authorities to promptly start using this new open source detection method in their food and feed control programs to prevent illegal contamination of imports with new genetically modified plants.

VLOG Managing Director Alexander Hissting: “The new detection method is a milestone in the protection of consumers, food production and agriculture in the EU. The authorities now have a working tool to identify a new, unauthorised, genetically modified plant as such. This permits producers and marketers at all levels – from beekeepers to farmers, from breeders to feed and food businesses – to keep their supply chains free from these novel, genetically engineered organisms and meet the growing consumer demand for GMO-free food over the long term.

We developed this test because government authorities did not. And it was their task to do so. VLOG will integrate the new detection method into its own testing programme. But, above all, we call on the authorities to promptly integrate this open source test into their testing programme and keep illegal Cibus rapeseed/canola out of Europe.”

After detailed peer review, the new detection method was published in the scientific journal “Foods” today. The method can accurately detect the genetically engineered rapeseed/canola produced by the US biotech company Cibus. This is one of two crop plants produced at present using new genetic engineering which are being cultivated in North America. Cibus rapeseed/canola is not approved in the European Union. Its import is therefore illegal. The new detection method has been validated by the Austrian Federal Environmental Agency. It meets all the European criteria for methods of detecting genetically modified organisms and therefore can be utilised immediately.

Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace EU (Brussels): “Under a ruling of the EU high court, genome-edited plants clearly come under EU genetic engineering law – which is necessary to protect consumers and the environment. Many have claimed that it is impossible to detect genome-edited plants and that therefore such plants cannot be regulated under existing genetic engineering law. We have shown that detection is entirely possible. Now there are no more excuses – existing safety and labelling obligations must be applied to these new genetically engineered products as well. The European Commission and our governments should now build on this success and develop methods to identify any other genome-edited products.”

In July 2018 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) made it clear that products produced using the new genetic engineering process come under the provisions of EU genetic engineering law. The ECJ said that this is the only way to take into account the precautionary principle which is anchored in EU contracts and forms the basis for EU food safety legislation. Among other things the ruling requires German and European authorities to inspect imports for contamination with new genetically engineered plants. Thanks to the new open source detection method, this is possible in practice for the first time.


The terms “new genetic engineering” and "genome-editing" refer to new genetic engineering procedures to produce novel features in plants without the permanent introduction of foreign genetic material (genome). The best-known procedure is CRISPR-Cas CAS. However, in addition to the intended changes, genome editing also causes unintended changes in the genome, which can impair a product’s safety for humans and the environment. The long-term health and environmental effects of genome-edited plants have not yet been investigated. To date, two plants produced through genome-editing are market-ready: SU Canola (rapeseed/canola) produced by the US Cibus Company and a soybean with modified oil content (high oleic soy) produced by the US Calyxt Company. Both products are only cultivated in North America so far.

Our research project was carried out by a consortium headed by Dr John Fagan at the Health Research Institute (Iowa, USA). It was financed by the Greenpeace EU Unit, Greenpeace Germany and the Sustainability Council of New Zealand as well as by the “Ohne Gentechnik” labelling organisations ARGE Gentechnik-frei (Austria) and VLOG e.V. (Germany), the Non-GMO Project (USA), the Organic and Natural Health Association (USA), the federation for organic food and agriculture IFOAM Organics Europe, and Austria’s leading food retailer, SPAR.

The new method can detect an herbicide-tolerant rapeseed/canola variety developed through so-called “new” genetic engineering. Its detection enables the EU Member States to implement appropriate testing to prevent crop plants that have not been approved in the EU from illegally entering the EU’s food and feed chains. In the past there was no method for EU states to investigate and check agricultural imports for the presence of this genetically modified rapeseed/canola variety which is currently cultivated in parts of the USA and Canada. And the genetic engineering industry and some European authorities have thus far taken the stance that plants produced through the new genetic engineering processes are generally undetectable and therefore cannot be regulated under existing EU genetic engineering law. The new detection method shows that these claims are unfounded and exaggerated.


Links, Social Media, Video

A Real-Time Quantitative PCR Method Specific for Detection and Quantification of the First Commercialized Genome-Edited Plant  Autoren: Fagan, J., Chhalliyil, P., Ilves, H., Kazakov, S., Howard, S., Johnston, B. Erschienen am 7. September 2020 in Foods (Open Acces Journal)

Media briefing: Publication of world’s first open source method for detecting plants produced by the new genetic engineering process

Supplementary statements: Development of the world’s first open source method for detecting plants produced by the new genetic engineering process

A website with full information about this project was placed online today at:

In addition there is now a series of articles on this topic on VLOG’s social media channels:



Among other things the informational video published today can also be found there:

The appendix contains a background briefing and additional quotes.



Photos of the relevant actors can be obtained from us upon request.