For anyone wondering how much genetically modified material is in food bought at grocery stores, they should know there’s a local company trying to answer that question.
SRQ Bio, a for-profit company, recently received accreditation to conduct GMO, or genetically modified organism, testing.
“We started the process from scratch and nine months later, we’re accredited,” said Ghania Ait-Ghezala, SRQ Bio’s technical director for GMO testing. The company was accredited under the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standard, which is the international standard all GMO-testing labs must meet. SRQ Bio is trying to get ahead of the game. The services are needed, Ait-Ghezala said, because many countries that import U.S. foodstuffs have laws requiring GMO labeling.
In the U.S., only Vermont requires GMO labeling by law. Dozens of other state legislatures, including Florida’s, are discussing passage of similar laws.
“If it’s positive in the qualitative analysis, then we do the quantitative analysis to determine the percentage of GMO in the product,” Ait-Ghezala said. SRQ Bio achieved accreditation in December, but didn’t receive the certificate finalizing the status until March. Since then, they’ve been working with the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. to get local companies on board, said SRQ Bio’s Vice President of Business Development Benoit Mouzon.
“The life sciences sector is one of our targeted sectors, and they fall nicely into that sector,” said Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Bradenton Area EDC. “We've been supporting them in terms of trying to make connections for them with some food processors in the area, just to let them know we have a company here that's performing that type of testing.”
SRQ Bio can test anything for GMOs, Ait-Ghezala said, including human food, pet food and cosmetic products.
“We assume if people don’t want to eat GMOs, they don’t want their pet to eat GMOs, either,” Ait-Ghezala said.
SRQ Bio used to be a subsidiary of the nonprofit Roskamp Institute Inc. SRQ Bio is now an independent company, employs about a dozen people and contracts with outside companies to conduct GMO tests and other laboratory procedures. SRQ Bio representatives were not able to disclose who their clients are. Though the two are legally separate entities, the Roskamp Institute and SRQ Bio still live under one roof at 2040 Whitfield Ave. near the Bradenton-Sarasota International Airport.
SRQ Bio’s end goal, Mouzon said, is to make money to fuel back into more research, whether at SRQ Bio or the Roskamp Institute.
SRQ Bio also conducts testing on herbal supplements and provides drug and nutraceutical discovery, which is most often applied to dietary supplements. Using a nutritional patch, a popular trend in the wellness community right now, as an example, Mouzon explained what his company does in the simplest possible terms. A patch claims to use “Derma Fusion Technology” to deliver nutrients and vitamins to users through their skin.
“Maybe it gets stuck in the glue or maybe it doesn’t cross the skin barrier,” Mouzon said of the vitamins and nutrients in the patches. “That’s why we have our tests.”
“We help companies back up their claims with scientific evidence,” Ait-Ghezala said. “And if it doesn’t work, we help them figure out how to make it work.”
SRQ Bio has also looked at helping the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with its backlog of rape kits.
“None of us have criminal justice experience, but we explored the cost and other requirements,” Mouzon said. “We’re not sure if we will go that route, but we wanted to see if we could help. With tissue and food, it’s the same process but a different origin.” SRQ Bio is still exploring the feasibility of this option and said they’d likely need to obtain funds through a state or local grant in order to properly outfit a forensic lab for the work.
Mouzon said he hopes to continue working with the Bradenton Area EDC to find funding for the forensic lab, to introduce SRQ Bio to area food producers and to spread the word about his company’s work to other state agencies that may need lab capabilities.
GMO crops in the U.S.
When a crop’s genes are modified in a laboratory through genetic engineering, it is a GMO crop. The following is a list of crops that, if ingredients are derived from them for use in Non-GMO Project Verified products, must be tested for GMOs.
- Sugar Beets
- Zucchini and yellow summer squash
Source: Non-GMO Project