Genetic ID, the independent testing lab that detected an unapproved corn variety in Taco Bell taco shells sold in U.S. food stores, offers the following correction.

On September 18, Bloomberg News released a story that stated, "Aventis criticized the testing lab, saying Genetic ID made a charge earlier this year that Japanese snackmakers were using unapproved genetically engineered corn. Aventis said that charge was later disproven."

According to Jeffrey Smith, Genetic ID, Inc.'s vice president of marketing communications, the statement refers to tests conducted by Genetic ID last summer that were widely publicized by our testing client in Japan. "The findings were not disproved," says Smith. "In fact, we retested the sample several times and are confident that it contained traces of at least one unapproved variety."

Smith acknowledges that the company that produced one of the unapproved varieties in question has continued to challenge the results. "They first claimed that no test methods could detect corn varieties," says Smith. In response, Genetic ID made a public offer to prove the validity of its methods. Genetic ID proposed that the corn producer submit the unapproved variety in question to the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Union. The JRC would then prepare samples ranging from zero to 100 percent concentration, and send them unlabeled to Genetic ID in order to evaluate its detection methods. The corn producer chose not to cooperate.

"Months later, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries developed its own varietal testing methods and retested the same brand of corn snack that we had tested," says Smith. "Although they did not find the unapproved variety, they were testing an entirely different sample, possibly from a different lot," says Smith. "The Ministry's test obviously does not refute the results found in the sample we tested."

In a subsequent test, Genetic ID found the same unapproved variety in Japanese animal feed. An independent European lab confirmed the results. Recently the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), based on their inspection of Genetic ID's laboratory facilities, in-depth evaluation of the analytical procedures, and review of extensive validation data, accredited Genetic ID's varietal detection methods.

Neutrality of Genetic ID

According to Smith, Genetic ID remains neutral in the debate on genetically modified foods. Although the vast majority of Genetic ID's clients are in the agricultural and food industry, Smith acknowledges that his laboratory sometimes comes under fire when it is occasionally sent samples by consumer and environmental groups. "These groups use the test results to further their own purposes, and our name can get caught up in their publicity. As an independent lab, we operate according to ISO standards and do not discriminate between clients. We provide the same high-quality analytical services to all, focusing on scientific rigor, strict confidentiality, and highest quality service." Smith points out that when samples reach the lab, "any evidence of the client's identity or the product's manufacturer is removed and replaced by a tracking code."

Smith also acknowledges that comments made several years ago by a scientist at Genetic ID have fueled allegations of partiality. These allegations, he says, appear to be generated by persons who were not happy with past findings at the lab about their products and are baseless.

Industry conference on unapproved varieties

Genetic ID will hold a conference for the agricultural and food industry on Wednesday, September 27 in Chicago. Company representatives will discuss testing methods for detecting genetically modified (GM) varieties unapproved in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, as well as certification programs that document the absence of unapproved varieties from farm to shelf.

"We are holding the conference to respond to the numerous requests we have received since Monday, when the finding was made public by our testing client," says Smith. The conference will be held on Wednesday, September 27, from 3:30-6:30 pm at the Clarion Barcelo Hotel near the O'Hare Airport in Chicago.

Genetic ID first introduced tests of unapproved transgenic corn varieties at the request of their agricultural and food industry clients, who needed them to comply with regulations in several countries. Known as Varietal ID, the tests were recently accredited by UKAS. Genetic ID also offers Cert ID, a non-GMO certification program used by food producers on five continents.

Media conference on GMOs

Also on September 27, Genetic ID will host a conference on GMO testing, certification, and worldwide regulatory developments for the media. The event, which Genetic ID organized in August, will also address the issues of detection of unapproved GM varieties. This conference will be held from 10:00 am-3:00 pm, also in the Clarion Barcelo Hotel. Members of the press are requested to RSVP Lisa Rivera at 641.472.9979, ext. 141, or email her at LRivera@genetic-id.com.