Development of a PCR based assay for identification of Genetically Modified foods

gm food3

Genetically Modified foods have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. We have successfully developed an assay based on screening genetic elements by PCR for identification of Genetically Modified foods. Today modern techniques in Biotechnology allow plant breeders to introduce specific traits via particular genes into crops. The inserted genes may come from the same species of plant, from other plant species, or even from animal or bacteria.

The cultivation and consumption of GM crops have been increased exceedingly in last decade all around the globe. Since appropriate screening process and regulations have not been established it is possible to contain GM food materials in the imported food items and cultivation of GM crops in Sri Lanka. The CaMV 35s promoter and NOS terminator are the most abundant GM elements in GM crops. Therefore we have optimized the qualitative test methods for the detection of CaMV 35s promoter and NOS terminator based on Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).


Development of methods for the estimation of rice percentage in wheat/rice incorporated bakery products


Wheat flour is the key ingredient in bakery product and countries’ entire wheat requirement is imported for the bakery industry. Refined wheat flour lacks important vitamins, fiber and ingestion of wheat storage proteins (gluten) could cause celiac disease in genetically susceptible individuals. The use of rice flour in bakery products is currently being promoted as they are nutritious, healthy, non inflammatory and home grown. But bakers falsify the percentage of rice to attract more consumers because higher percentage of rice makes textural quality of bread lower and thereby decreasing the demand. To date in Sri Lanka there is no established method to verify the actual percentage of rice verses the stipulated rice percentage in rice incorporated bakery products. Therefore Biotechnology Unit developed molecular methods to estimate the rice percentage in wheat/rice incorporated bakery products and to qualitatively detect wheat adulteration in traditional flours.


Development of trehalose rich rice varieties using modern Biotechnology


This project focuses on developing transgenic rice plant which could produce higher levels of trehalose in rice seeds. Due to the presence of trehalose, rice flour can be successfully used in bakery industry such as bread making. Wheat flour is the base ingredient in the bakery industry and the country’s entire requirement is imported. Around 26 billion rupees is spent on importing wheat flour annually.

The use of rice flour to produce bread instead of wheat flour will be of immense benefit to the economy. Rice is home grown, nutritious and cheap. Bread from rice flour is very difficult to bake as it lacks gluten like proteins which gives the dough viscosity & elasticity. To address this problem BTU is developing a technology to produce gluten free bread using 100% rice flour which has trehalose as a substitute for gluten. Being gluten free  it will not cause adverse reactions for people with gluten intolerance. For the development of transgenic rice plant, a rice plant tissue culture protocol towards establishing rapid production of fertile, genetically stable rice plants has also been developed.


Iron fortification of rice seeds using soya bean ferritin

ferritin 2Iron deficiency is one of the most widespread nutritional disorders in the world. Several strategies have been taken to solve this issue but none of them are able to fully address this problem. In this context, development of rice plants with high iron content by genetic engineering methods is a promising approach. In this project we are developing transgenic rice plants with seeds that contain higher levels of iron. Using molecular biological techniques the gene for ferritin protein in soybean will be incorporated to the rice genome. Using tissue culture protocols these will be regenerated and will be introduced to the field.


Expression of lysine rich protein SBgLR gene in rice seeds


 Rice which is the staple food in Sri Lanka is deficient in lysine which is one of the eight essential amino acids. Being an essential amino acid, it plays many functional roles in human body. Genetic engineering will be used to increase lysine content in rice seed. Lysine acts as building blocks of proteins thereby it requires for proper growth.

It is essential for the carnitine production, a nutrient responsible for converting fatty acids into energy and helping to lower cholesterol. Lysine appears to help the body absorb calcium, and it plays an important role in the formation of collagen, a substance important for bones and connective tissues including skin, tendon, and cartilage. As a result, protein deficiency disorders are particularly severe where rice is the major staple food Genetic engineering is one of the possible ways to resolve this nutritional problem through enhancing the total lysine and total protein content in rice. BTU is carrying a research to increase both the lysine and total protein content of the rice seeds by introducing the gene that encode for a protein with high lysine content. This gene will be introduced in to rice callus via Agrobacterium- mediated transformation under the control of seed-specific rice promoter.




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