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  • Application of Genetically Modified Crops: Status, Regulation and Detection Method in Indonesia

    Bahagiawati dan Sutrisno

    Indonesian Center for Agricultural Biotechnology and Genetic Resources Research and Development, Jl. Tentara Pelajar 3A Bogor-16111


    Application of Genetically Modified Crops: Status, Regulation, and Detection Method in Indonesia. Bahagiawati and Sutrisno. Global area of transgenic crop was increase tremendously. The number of country accepting of planting and/or marketing the transgenic crops and its derivative products also become more numberous. However, due to existing controversy on the benefit and risk, the application of transgenic crops was governed by regulations to protect the consumer and environment from its unwanted effects. There are some international conventions that managing and controlling the uses of these crops, one of them was Cartagena protocol that Indonesia ratified in 2004. Indonesia also launched a regulation upon labelling package food derived from transgenic crops in 1999. To implement either the Cartagena protocol and labelling regulation, Indonesia needs to increase its capacity to detect the present of the transgenic crop product either in raw, and proceesed food. This review will discuss about the development of the application of transgenic crop and its product globally, and list of transgenic crops that have been accepted and approved as safe for human consumption and environment. The regulations upon the application of transgenic crop in Indonesia also be informed. Some metodologies to detect the presence of the genetically modified food that are generally use in some countries also be discussed in this review.

    Key words: Transgenic crop, regulation, detection method, laboratory.


    One of the alternative technologies that can be used in plant breeding program to increase agricultural production is genetic engineering. Due to this technology, there was an increase in transgenic plant cultivation for commercialization. When introduced in 1996, transgenic plants were cultivated in 1.7 ha area and increased by 40 times to 67.7 million in 2003 (James 2003). A third of that total area (20 million ha) is in developing countries. In 2003, more than 10 million farmers from 25 countries had planted transge-nic plants with the total market value of US$ 4 trillion. Those countries include USA (42.8 million ha or 63%), Argentine (13.9 million ha or 21%), Canada (4.4 million ha or 6%), and South Africa (0.4 million ha or 1%)

    Hak Cipta 2007, BB-Biogen

    (James 2003). In 2006, about 19 kinds of transgenic plants were approved either for field released, human consumprtion and for feed. They are soybean, maize, canola, carnation flower, lentil, sugar beet, sunflower, wheat, linseed, melon, chicory, bentgrass, potato, papaya, rice, squash, tobacco, tomato and alfalfa (Agbios 2006). The increase of transgenic plant cultivation is followed by increase in their distribution, whether as raw materials such as seeds, as half-processed food or as food product in global market.

    The presence of transgenic plants and their products has triggered public controversial reactions. One of the reasons is that genetically engineered products have not been tested, as opposed to conventional products that have been used for years. However, since the marketing of transgenic plants in 1996, the product had been accepted because, as stated by several countries, several transgenic products in markets are safe for human consumption and feed. Transgenic plant products have been approved in several countries, the approval stating that the products are save for environment, human consumption and feed. Several plant commodities and countries that released approval of transgenic crops are shown in Table 1.

    Concern about negative effects resulting from transgenic products has caused several countries to produce, approve and implement regulations that guarantee the safe-utilization of these modern technology products so that they will not endanger consumers and will not damage natural resources. To protect consumers rights to choose the origin and type of products to be consumed, regulation about product labeling was made. Several countries that have this labelling regulations are shown in Table 2.

    To implement the labeling regulation of genetically modified organism (GMO) products, the government needs to have capacity to detect whether a food product is originated and contained GMO. So, the methods for GMO detection need to be developed. The methods not only quickly, but also regional or international accepted. There are more than 100 mothods developed globally, and standardization of the methods have not been made until now. However, there are some effords to standardize these methods

    Jurnal AgroBiogen 3(1):40-48

  • 2007 BAHAGIAWATI AND SUTRISNO: Application of Genetically Modified


    through Codex and ISO. Since the end of 1990s several methods has been published by laboratories across countries. Because there is not yet international standard, several countries developed their own methods and used them as national guidelines.

    The objectives of this review are to elucidate the transgenic plant status, products and regulation in Indonesia and the methods that are commonly used in the worlds to detect GMO.


    In year the of 2001, for the first time Indonesian government approved environmental released of transgenic plant for commercialization, which was Bt cotton (Bollgard) in 7 districts in South Sulawesi. It did not take a long time for the National Biosafety Commission to give the approval for this comodity because the product was not consumed as food. The company who own the Bollgard sold their Bt-cotton seeds for only two years to the cotton farmers in South Sulawesi. However, due to several reasons, in the third year (2003) the company decided not to renewed the

    Table 1. List of approved GMO for safety to use for human consumption and the countries that gave the approval.

    Commodity Introduced trait No. of Event* Countries that approved safe for human consumption

    Alfalfa Herbicide tolerant 1 Canada, Mexico, Phillipine Argentine canola Herbicide tolerant 15 USA, Canada, Japan, China, European Union, Australia Poland canola Herbicide tolerant 2 Canada Cotton Pest resistant, herbicide tolerant 15 USA, Canada, Australia, Argentine, China, India, Japan,

    Mexico, Phillipine, South Africa, Brazil Linseed Herbicide tolerant 1 USA, Canada Lentil Herbicide tolerant 1 Canada Maize Herbicide tolerant, pest resistant, fertility recover,

    male sterility, lysine-content intensifier 32 USA, Japan, Canada, Phillipine, Taiwan, China, Argentine,

    Australia, European Union, South Africa, Netherland, UK, Switzerland, South Korea, Rusia, Uruguay

    Melon Delay ripening 1 USA Potato Pest resistant, herbicide tolerant 4 Australia, Canada, Japan, Phillipine, USA Rice Herbicide tolerant 3 Canada, USA Soybean Herbicide tolerant, oil content 7 Australia, USA, Argentine, Brazil, Rusia, UK, Taiwan, Japan,

    South Africa, Uruguay, Mexico, European Union, Switzerland, South Korea, China

    Squash pumpkin Virus resistant 2 Canada, USA Papaya Virus resistant 1 Canada, USA Sugar beet Herbicide tolerant 3 Canada, USA, Phillipine, Australia, Japan Sunflower Herbicide tolerant 1 Canada Tomato Delay ripening, pest resistant 6 Canada, USA, Japan, Mexico Wheat Herbicide tolerant 5 Canada, USA

    * Approved safe for human consumption. Source: Agbios (2006).

    Table 2. List of countries possessing labeling regulation.

    Country Labeling procedure Threshold Label

    Australia and New Zealand Mandatory 1,0 Genetically modified Brazil Mandatotry 1,0 Genetically modified Canada Voluntary 5,0 Non-Genetically modified China Mandatory 1,0 Genetically modified European Union Mandatory 0,9 Genetically modified Indonesia Mandatory 5,0 Genetically modified Israel Mandatory 0,9 Genetically modified Japan Mandatory 5,0 Genetically modified Phillipine Voluntary n/a Genetically modified Rusia Mandatory 0,9 Genetically modified Saudi Arabia Mandatory 1,0 Genetically modified South Korea Mandatory 3,0 Genetically modified Switzerland Mandatory 0,9 Genetically modified Taiwan Mandatory 5,0 Genetically modified Thailand Mandatory 5,0 Genetically modified USA Voluntary n/a Non Genetically modified and organic

    Source: Viljoen (2005).


    annual released approval of their Bt-cotton in Indonesia (Bermawie et al. 2003).

    By unintentionally, some transgenic plant products were distributed in Indonesia for several years. To fulfill the need for food, Indonesia imports soybean and maize from abroad. For example, in 2003, Indonesia imports about 2.5 million ton soybean because the national soybean production was only 672.4 thousand ton (BPS 2004). The imported soybean was largely (70-90%) obtained from the USA and Argentine which are the main transgenic cultivating countries in the world (Swaco Prima Windutama, 2005). Similar import happened with maize. Even though Indonesia produces maize, the national production is not enough to supply the demand of Indonesian population. These days, 43% of the maize demand is for human food supply, and the rest is for feed (Kasryono 2002). Indonesia imported 700 thousand ton maize mainly from the USA and Argentine in 2004 (Swaco Prima Windutama 2005). Therefore, the presence of transgenic plant products in Indonesia is unavoidable since last couples of years.

    Indonesia has some regulations that control the utilization of transgenic plants such as Regulation no. 7 year 1996 about food and Regulation no. 21 year 2005 that revised prior laws. In addition, since 1999 Indonesia has released regulations about GMO product labeling with Regulation (president Order) no. 69 year 1999. In 2004, regulation about genetically engineered food product was released in Regulation no. 28 year 2004. However, Regulation no. 69 year 1999 and no. 28 year 2004 have not yet been implemented, because the guideline was not launched yet.

    Until now, several applications for commercial released of transgenic plant have been submitted to

    the National Biosafety Commission National Biosafety Commission (Table 3). Some of the applications were under reviewed.

    In 2004, in an attempt to harmonize the methods and sharing experiences and capability an ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nation) GM Food Testing Network was formed with the name of ASEAN Genetically modified Food Testing Network, which as initiated and coordinated by Singapore, and Indonesia is a member. Meeting is held annually, while the members take turn to be the host.

    To date, Indonesia only has four laboratories that run GM Food detection. Two belongs to the government, ICABIORAD (Indonesian Center for Agricultural Biotechnology and Genetic Resources Research and Development) under the Department of Agriculture and Badan POM (National Food and Drugs Control). The other two are private owned, PT Saraswanti and University of Atmajaya (Table 4).


    Before going into detail on the detection methods, it is necessary to know the genes and traits that are commonly found in transgenic plant those are found in markets globally. These data are important to determine the target gene that will be detected. In addition, this paper also will explain the need for using reference material in the methods.

    Genetically Engineered Transgenic Plants

    Transgenic plants are plants resulted from introduction of DNA fragment of other organism into the plant genome. The process is knows as

    Table 3. Status of GMO analysis on biosafety and food product at Biosafety Technical Team level in 2006.

    Plant Introduced trait (plant name) Proponent (year dossier submitted)

    Biosafety containment Field confine Multilocation Results Status

    Insect resistant (MON810)

    Dupont (2002) done Waiting for approval

    Herbicide tolerant (GA-21)

    Monsanto (2002) done done environment safe Waiting for approval


    Herbicide tolerant (NK603)

    Monsanto (2002) done done Waiting for approval

    Cotton Cotton fruit borer resistant (Bollgard)

    Monsanto (1998) done done done Released in 2001, stopped in 2003

    Soybean Herbicide tolerant (GTS 40-3-2)

    Monsanto (2002) done done Waiting for approval

    Rice Stemborer resistant (Bt-rice)

    LIPI (2003) done Undergoing In process of data collection for biosafety

    Sugarcane Drought tolerant (sugarcane bet A)

    PTPN XI (2003) done Undergoing In process of data collection for biosafety

    None of the above commodities have been assesed for food safety. Source: Bahagiawati et al. (2006).

  • 2007 BAHAGIAWATI AND SUTRISNO: Application of Genetically Modified


    transformation. DNA fragment that is integrated into the plant genome is usually obtained from organisms present in nature such as bacteria or other plants. The gene construct that is introduced into the host plant usually contains three components, which are (1) promoter that functions to activate or deactivate the introduced gene, (2) the introduced gene that will express desired trait, and (3) terminator that stops reading signal from the gene sequence (Viljoen 2005). Several promoters that are commonly used to produce transgenic plant, but the one that are frequently used is P-35S from Cauliflower Mosaic Virus. The terminator that commonly used is T-NOS from Agrobacterium tumefacien.

    Nearly all commercialized transgenic plants contain P-35S promoter and T-NOS terminator. Therefore, P-35S and T-NOS sequences are often used to screen GMO. However, screening in this way often results in false positive that comes from virus or bacterium that are present in the plant sample.

    Even though some GMO contain identical insert, promoter and terminator, they are considered different transgenic plants (with different events) and are named differently because they are unequal in the plant genome location where the genes are inserted.

    Commonly Transgene in GMO

    Transgenic plant resistance to insects is due to introduction of cry genes (cry1Ab, cry1Ac, cry1F, cry2b, cry3A, cry3Bd1, and cry9c) from several soil bacterial subspecies B. thuringiensis (Viljoen 2005). cry genes encode Bt toxin, a delta endotoxin that can be toxic to several species of insects, including plant pests. This toxin binds to the cell receptor in the digestive track of the insect, disturbing the ion flux, which causes dysfunctional digestive track and death of the insect. Mammals do not have the same type of receptor in their digestive track as the insects; hence the presence

    of Bt toxin will not disturb the human digestive system (Hofte and Whiteley 1989).

    There are two types of herbicidal tolerance in transgenic plants according to the active ingredients of t...