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Main research question/goal
The aim of this project is to develop a test system that identifies potential long-term effects of foods containing GMOs (genetically modified crops), including transgenerational effects. The test system is built on an animal model. We will investigate whether the test system can differentiate between an effect of the genetic alteration on its own and the effect of the proteins expressed by genetic modification. Is the developed test system applicable for risk evaluation of commercially relevant crops in food? Can the test system, if established, provide more information about the underlying biological mechanism that causes these effects?

Research approach
In order to test the hypothesis, we create GM crops whose genetic background is fully documented. We also have the wild-type and the nul-segregant plants. All crops (GMO, control, commercial non-GM crops) are grown in a greenhouse under controlled conditions. The composition of the feeds, and the presence of possible contaminants in the feed produced, are accurately determined. The tolerance of the test animals for the presence of corn in feed is determined in a preliminary experiment. The animal model (the zebrafish) does not show deviations under normal circumstances and allows sufficiently large samples. In a preliminary experiment, the natural variation in response is determined after feeding feeds containing various non-GM crops, so that the nature and amplitude of possible GMO effects can be compared. The zebrafish is chosen among other models because of its short life cycle.

The individual European Member States play an important role in the European authorization of GMOs for import and use in food and feed. At the Belgian level, the Biosafety Council must give final advice to the relevant ministers on the market application. Some stakeholders claim that long term effects are not tested and documented sufficiently. This research project leads to the provision of a test procedure to accurately predict the long-term effects of the presence of GMOs in food. Once tested scientifically, the test procedure can be used by governments, research institutes, agencies (including EFSA) and the scientific community, but also by companies or research institutions that make a risk assessment of the GMO they want to bring to the market. Of course, this research should be supplemented with additional validation studies, including international inter-laboratory studies.
Effective start/end date1/11/1331/10/17

ID: 4156540