Congratulations to Inventors Program veterans Barrett Morrow and Jessica Popoola for completing the GMO Safety project. They delivered their final report to the private donor in the Summer 2017 session. Below is the abstract.
This study aimed to analyze the relationship between aflatoxin contamination in corn and the genetic variety of corn grown. This was to test the hypothesis that plants expressing transgenic elements will have a lower prevalence of aflatoxin contamination compared to their organic/non-gmo counterparts. To do this, eleven samples of corn meal were purchased from grocery stores in the Austin area of which four were organic and seven were conventionally grown. These samples were then analyzed via LC-MS/MS. Aflatoxin levels in all eleven samples fell under the limit of detection of the method used (B1 < 1.3ppb, B2 < 1.2ppb, G1 < 1.1ppb, G2 < 1.6ppb). The gmo content of the samples was then verified via qPCR detection of the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus 35s promoter (CaMV35s), the most common gmo element shared amongst different varieties of gmo corn. These results showed that all organic corn meal samples failed to amplify before the CaMV35s positive control. However, out of the seven conventionally grown samples, six were seen to amplify before the CaMV35s positive control, while one was seen to amplify after with the non-gmo samples despite its packaging making no mention of being non-gmo. With no clear evidence to support nor deny the hypothesis, we reached out to farmers and grain distributors, whom collectively stated that aflatoxin contamination was of little concern to them. Therefore, from the evidence gathered in this study, there is no clear relationship between the level of aflatoxin contamination and whether the crop is of gmo or non-gmo variety.