• IISc Bangalore: Modelling
  • UrbanTundra Edmonton
  • Manchester
  • Intra-Provincial Collaboration

IISc Bangalore: Modelling

In terms of modelling, we created a system that was modelled the buoyancy of GVP proteins, independently of diffusion. We had assumed that diffusion plays a negligible role in the overall speed of the E. coli bacteria that eventually rise to the top. However, after collaborating with the IISc Bangalore 2017 team, who is also working with gas vesicles, they informed us that diffusion plays a significant role in the buoyancy of the bacteria. They highlighted this importance by their Peclet number (Pe) calculation: the ratio of the rate of advection of a physical quantity by the flow to the rate of diffusion of the same quantity driven by an appropriate gradient. When they calculated this number for very similar environmental conditions as ours, they found that this number was on the order of 10^(-3), a lot smaller when compared to 1. This evidently suggested that diffusion is dominant over adjective transfer and must be considered during our calculations.

Since the IISc team was also working with gas vesicles, our collaboration did not stop at modelling. Over the course of the iGEM period, our team continued to discuss experiment plans, objectives, results and tips that could help the both teams succeed. In the future, Team UAlberta and Team IISc will continue to benefit heavily by combining their manpower and resources to strive for the goals collectively.

UrbanTundra Edmonton, Sister Team

Throughout the course of the summer, the members of Team UrbanTundra had become an extended part of our iGEM family. In both general lab training and the InterLab Study did we develop a robust collaboration. A large majority of UrbanTundra had not had previous experience with the techniques of molecular biology. So, as many of members of Team UAlberta had been in the same boat in iGEM 2016, we were glad to help acquaint UrbanTundra with the skills they would need. Over a series of several days did we train their members in the various laboratory protocols that are commonly used in synthetic biology. This included guiding them through a workflow which included transformation, inoculation, plasmid purification, digestions, ligation, and gel electrophoresis. Though, we ensured that the training had a founding in safety culture that our team upholds.

Beyond this, when Team UAlberta had commenced the InterLab Study Protocols, Team UrbanTundra was essential to our success. We had numerous failed attempts at getting the InterLab devices into E. coli DH5a which eventually consumed our plasmid stock. However, with the help of UrbanTundra, we were able to get the devices transformed. In return, we gave them them purified samples of the InterLab devices for their their own use in their transformation protocols. We also shared our plate reader equipment and gave instruction so that they could also take their InterLab measurements. Without the collaborative relationship with Team UrbanTundra, we would not have been able to accomplish what we did.


Team UAlberta collaborated with iGEM teams Manchester, Virginia, Macquarie, AQA Unesp, Botchan_Lab_Tokyo, UChile_OpenBio-CeBiB, ITB_Indonesia, KUAS_Korea, and IIT_Delhi on developing a document exploring each nation’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) legislation. As a team, due to the challenges we faced explaining our project to the public, we chose to focus on addressing the problem of scientific literacy. GMOs, with its perceived harmful effects, are often the first thing people think of whenever genetic engineering and synthetic biology are mentioned. Thus, we believe that this report, which discusses GMO legislation around the world, can be a useful tool in dispelling some of the myths surrounding the development and availability of GMOs.

1. What institutional body enforces the laws regarding the use of GMMs?

The institutional bodies that enforce the laws regarding the use of GMMs differ a lot across the world. In many countries in Asia (Japan, Indonesia, and Korea) and Canada, ministries and departments are responsible for enforcing the laws of GMMs. The kinds of ministries enforcing the laws as well as their numbers vary from country to country, but usually the large organizations are in charge.

On the other hand, countries like India, Brazil, the United States, and Australia have more specialied committees or institutions of biotechnology and biosafety and these committees are responsible for enforcing the laws.

In the European Union, the European Commission is responsible for enforcing the GMO laws to be followed by all member countries. Chile doesn’t have a clear regulation for biotechnology, but has responsible institutions when commercing or trading.

2. Who regulates the use of GMMs on a case-by-case basis?

We can distinguish two different administrative ways in which countries decided to regulate the use of GMMs. One way government regulate GMMs is by establishing a special, often non-governmental, organisation, which usually also acts as an information centre in the field of synthetic biology. The other way involves assigning conventional ministries to regulate the use of GMMs in their respective fields.

The European Union, Australia, and Indonesia belong to the first group. For example, in Australia, Gene Technology Regulator Advisory Committee takes charge of making decisions on products’ approval. Competent authorities in the European Union and The Biosafety Commission and The Technical Team for Biosafety in Indonesia have similar roles.

Brazil, Canada, Chile, Korea, India, Japan and the US belong to the second group, where conventional ministries are responsible for their respective fields. Even though the names of these ministries might differ amongst the countries, it seems to be a more prevalent way to regulate GMO. Additional information centres might be present to help the ministries make decisions, nonetheless.

3. What legal requirements do I have to fulfil in order to be able to use GMMs in my business?

The legal requirements in the European Union, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Indonesia and India are very similar. All uses of GMOs require risk assessments to be run before the start of the production. The exact procedures related to obtaining permissions to use GMOs in the production vary, however, according to the target use of the final products or the way the GMOs are handled in the production process. As a general rule, products related to human health as well as those used as food or feed have to follow stricter GMO procedures, such as obtaining approvals from several ministries or labelling your final products in a predescribed manner. Environmental release of GMOs is also given serious attention although the procedures are not as tight, just as in the case of contained GMO use. Usually, the target use also dictates which Ministry will be responsible for the evaluation and approval of the planned GMO use. These could include Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Food, Fisheries, Forestry, Environment and many more.

In Korea, the procedure is also similar but it requires a payment of a examination fee that costs 4000 dollars. In the USA, GMO plants are considered equivalent to non-GMO plants and do not require much further approval; only if the plant express a protein that is significantly different from any protein originally expressed, will a respective institution be required to approve of such use. In Chile, on the other hand, it is forbidden to commercialise GMOs as only seed exportation is allowed.

4. As an employer who exposes their workers to biological agents, what safety measures am I obliged to adopt?

It can be noticed all countries participating in this collaboration, share the standard protocols of good practices in a laboratory, which includes the following:

  • Reduce the risk of manipulation to the maximum.
  • Identify the level of risk.
  • Use of necessary safety equipment for each activity.
  • Maintain the necessary information and supervision with trained personnel.
  • Maintain an infection prevention protocol and equipment in case of emergency.
  • Good hygiene of workers.
  • Special conditions and restrictions on air circulation.
  • Waste disposal protocols, among others.

In the United States, Australia, Brazil and Indonesia, these protocols for the manipulation of biological agents are all that is required to protect the workers involved. On the other hand, the European Union, Japan and India also require medical records of all workers exposed to biological agents to be kept for a specified period of time. Japan additionally requires the employers to hold medical check-ups every 6 months for the exposed workers. The legislations of EU, Korea, Canada, Chile and India group biological agents according to the risk they might create. These groups, in turn, determine what safety measures are to be taken in each case.

In Korea, Canada and Chile, the facilities must also be located in an isolated or secluded location. Chile only requires it for biosafety levels 3 and 4. Finally, Korea and India require the existence of a decontamination room between the work area and the outside.

5. As a consumer, how do I know if a product I want to buy contains GMO?

The legal requirements for disclosing GMOs within food and other products differ across the world. Some countries within the Americas have little to no laws in place regarding GMO labelling. In the USA, there are no official obligations for companies to label any products containing GMOs. The same applies to Canada, unless the food is likely to pose a health or safety risk to consumers, in which case full disclosure of GMOs is mandatory. The Brazilian government, which has until now required companies to label transgenic products with a T symbol, is (as of 2017) currently considering removing this law. Chilean government might be a notable exception as it prohibits the introduction into the market of any products containing GMOs.

In contrast, most of Europe, Asia and Oceania have strict guidelines surrounding labelling of GMO products. The European Union, Australia, India and Indonesia all require the packaging of such products to be bear the label “this product contains genetically modified organisms”, although exceptions do exist in the form of medical products (in the European Union) and foods produced by animals fed with GMO foods (in Australia). Japan and Korea follow a percentage scale, with GMO labelling required if a product contains more than 5% and 1% genetically-modified ingredients respectively.

6. What are the most important documents related to GMMs?

The documents related to GMM concern a wide range of issues like Manufacturing, Transportation, Safety, Environment, Health, etc.

When it comes to Biosafety, places like European Union, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Korea, India, and Indonesia clearly have got laws and regulations concerning biosafety and documents are supposed to be submitted in this regard. US and Canada do not seem to have any separate regulation regarding biosafety. However, in the US, Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology (1986) ensures the safety of the public.

For GMMs products (food, drugs, cosmetics etc.), places like the European Union, United state, India, and Canada have a policy and law for the use and regulation of GMM products. To use GMM products in these countries, the government formalities should be done before use, as stated in their laws and policies. In Brazil, there is a registry for biological products. In Japan and Korea there is no such law for GMM products. In Indonesia, supplementary documents must be submitted to use GMM biological foods and products. In Australia, there is no such law for GMM products.

In terms of international trade (export, import), countries like the United States, India, and Korea have clear laws detailing the procedures. They have taken permission and submission of documents to the law regarding this export and import of GMM uses. In European countries, these directly come under the laws of regulations of GMMs. There seem to be no specific laws regulating international GMM trade in Australia, Japan, Korea and Canada.

The most important documents related to GMMs are concerned with biosafety, food, trade and production processes. In places such as India, European Union, United States, Brazil, Japan, Canada, there are many different laws regulating each of these issues. On the other hand, Korea, Indonesia, and Australia have only one or two laws governing all these issues.

Intra-Provincial Collaboration: Alberta Strong

This iGEM season the UAlberta Team participated in a province-wide collaboration by hosting the Alberta iGEM Meeting, called aGEM, for all the Alberta iGEM teams this September. At aGEM, teams were able to present their progress on their projects and get valuable feedback from previous and current iGEM judges. There was also a free-for-all session that enabled teams to get together, discuss issues and solicit suggestions regarding different aspects of the project (e.g., wetlab, fundraising, human practices). In addition, we also submitted monthly updates documenting Team UAlberta’s adventures to a monthly newsletter assembled by UCalgary.

Special thanks to all our sponsors!

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