Metabolomics for organic food authentication: Results from a long-term field study in carrots
A groundbreaking study done by a group of international scientists working out of Belgium has shown that organic produce is identifiable through DNA testing. An area of study called Metabolomics has made this possible.
Metabolomics studies the chemical fingerprints left by specific cellular processes. By looking at what chemicals are left in a cell, scientists are able to determine what has occurred in that cell. Because plants utilize different metabolic pathways depending on their growth conditions, scientists can look for specific metabolites that indicate organic or synthetic fertilizer sources. The actual process involves identifying and quantifying specific mRNA and proteins, then running that information through statistical analysis to determine if the fertilizer source.
In this study on carrots, if researchers knew the harvest year, they were able to identify with 100% accuracy whether or not the root vegetables were of organic origin. If they did not know the harvest year, the success rate was 70-100%.
This study will help to ensure there is no counterfeit produce in the organic section at the market. More importantly, it shows that organic produce is technically different than synthetically grown produce. The residual metabolites found in organic produce could be valuable compounds leading to greater health in those that consume them. This study has many implications, we look forward to learning about all of them.