Detection of airborne genetically modified maize pollen

An interesting work by scientists from the European Commission Joint Research Centre who developed a methodology to monitor genetically modified maize pollen in air samples (S. Folloni et al., 2012).

The cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops has raised numerous concerns in the European Union and other parts of the world about their environmental and economic impact. Especially outcrossing of genetically modified organisms (GMO) was from the beginning a critical issue as airborne pollen has been considered an important way of GMO dispersal. In this study, the use of airborne pollen sampling combined with microscopic analysis and molecular PCR analysis was investigated, as an approach to monitor GM maize cultivations in a specific area. Field trial experiments in the European Union and South America demonstrated the applicability of the approach under different climate conditions, in rural and semi-urban environment, even at very low levels of airborne pollen. The study documents in detail the sampling of GM pollen, sample DNA extraction and real-time PCR analysis. The results suggest that this ‘GM pollen monitoring by bioaerosol sampling and PCR screening’ approach might represent an useful aid in the surveillance of GM-free areas, centres of origin and natural reserves.