Department of Mathematics

Neogen Corporation

Sampling for Genetically Modified Organisms*

Genetically engineered plants are one example of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). These plants differ from those obtained through artificial selection (conventional plant breeding involving cross fertilization, progeny
selection, etc.) because inserted genes, foreign to the particular crop, confer desired characteristics such as pesticide resistance. Existing genes may also be cancelled or amplified.

As early as 1986 concern over the health effects of consuming such GMOs as food prompted Denmark to regulate this area. Now, the European Union (EU) regulates the all foods which contain GMOs, in particular grains, that are imported into the European Community of nations. US grain producers who export to the EU must verify that their products contain no more GMOs than is allowed by the EU regulations. Currently, exported grain may contain no more than 1% genetically modified material on a population basis. That is, no more than 1% of the individual seed grains may be produced by genetically modified plants.

Neogen Corporation has developed and manufactures test kits to determine the GMO content of various grains.
The test procedure is sensitive to three of the most common proteins found in genetically modified grains.
However, the sensities for the three are not the same, the sensitivity for one is much higher than for the other two.

A typical situation requires that the grain exporter verify that a shipment of 10,000 kilograms of grain meets the 1% specification. This shipment of grain may have come from several different sources and may not be completely mixed. The project is to determine what is the best sampling strategy (number of samples and method of collection) and the best method to estimate the population of genetically modified grains in the samples.

The ideally completed project deliverable would be a sampling recommendation, an algorithm for estimating the GMO content of a shipment on a population basis, and a confidence level for the final result.

*This summary prepared by R. E. Svetic with the participation of Dr. P. S. Satoh and J. M. Madden of Neogen Corporation, Lansing, MI


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Department of Mathematics
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