Detect Genetically Modified Food

Diana Brandner
Madison Area Technical College
Biotechnology Laboratory Technician Program


Genetically modified foods are often in the news and widely grown in the United States. Three US government agencies (USDA, FDA, and EPA) work to regulate the introduction and production of genetically modified foods. These crops can provide agricultural, ecological and nutritional benefits, but there are also potential risks to the environment and consumers. As consumers and public interest groups around the world have become aware of these risks, there has been a call for more explicit product labeling and reliable methods for the detection of genetic modification in the foods we eat. This lab activity explores these issues by taking students through a three-part process to detect the presence of genetic modification in corn (maize) or soy food products. This lab uses PCR analysis, one of the two methods for detection of genetic modification currently approved by the European Union.

For convenience, this paper is divided into the following sections: (These are pdf files and you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader)

  • Instructor Background – Introduction and background on Genetically Modified Foods and the PCR method used for detection. (An updated Table 1 is available here.)
  • Wet Lab – Includes Teachers Notes and Student Protocol
  • Analysis Assessment Activity – A classroom case study activity using pictures of agarose electrophoresis gels of PCR products
  • Paper Lab – A classroom activity that analyses results of pre-run gels
  • Further Reading – A reading list on ‘Genetically Modified Foods


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