GMO Containment in the Field

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Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are regulated in each country. Therefore, each country must resolve the issue of taking out GMO bioreporters in the field.

Model of Bioreporters in the Field

In Switzerland, we have obtained permission A120851-07 from the Federal Office of the Environment to use specific vials with caps with a self-sealing silicone septum to take the bacteria in the field. The following diagram is our current model of working with bioreporters to analyse water arsenic levels in the field.

Current model in Switzerland

We worked with EPFL Biosafety Office to present our project in Bern to obtain the GMO license to take the bioreporter in the field.

Our process was this:

  • Work with a (federally) certified institution (biosafety level 1) to construct the bioreporter
  • Work with the appropriate federal office to obtain a license to work with the biorerporters in the field
  • In the laboratory, prepare the bioreporters in the approved vials
  • Take the vials out in the field, introduce samples into the vials with the GMO bioreporters
  • Analysis in the field, or back in the community
  • All GMO wastes are properly disposed of (autoclaved) in the licensed institution

The approval was facilitated by the fact that ArsoLux's bioluminescent arsenic bioreporter had been approved by the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) and the State Ministry of the Environment and Agriculture of Saxony (SMUL). During an inspection by Department 55 (Bio- and Genetic Engineering, Chemicals (SMUL)), the ARSOlux team was able to ensure that the field test follows national standards and regulations. The conducted tests for environmental viability and others by ArsoLux are documented in this pdf from the ArsoLux site.

Our first trip is documented on the Lac de Salanfe and Ottans 2015 wiki page as well as in our blog.


In order to deal with this issue of confinement, we use a vial having a silicon septum, thus allowing us to inject a water sample inside the vial containing the bioreporter while keeping the system confined. Indeed, the hole resorbs after the needle is retracted, thus leaving no room for contact between the environment and the GMO; this diagram illustrates this:


Here’s how this vial actually looks like:


This vial was chosen because of its confinement properties and because it has already been used in another similar project called ARSOlux which was approved by the German authorities. We’ll come back on how we used this as an important argument for the validation of our prototype by the Swiss authorities.

Extra care will be taken to avoid contact between the tip of the syringe and the bioreporter to avoid contamination of the syringe. After use, for safety reasons, the syringe is put in a syringe container like this one:


After the measurement of arsenic concentration, the cells in the vial are, at first, partially neutralized with alcohol before being brought back to the lab for destruction by autoclaving or inactivation by a hypochlorite solution.

Also, all manipulations with the vials containing the GMO are done over a retention tank to avoid any contamination of the environment if the vial would fall and break.

With all the aforementioned precautions taken, we can say that the use of our system is not considered to present a potential hazard to humans, animals and the environment.


Here’s a list of the elements you’ll need:

  • PK100 screw top clear vial 4ml Sigma Aldrich/Fluka: Vials containing the bio reporter in which we will transfer the water sample into.
Where to get it: Sigma Aldrich product link
Price: CHF 26.88 for a 100 vials

  • Assembled screw cap with hole and PTFE/silicone septum: Caps which allows the injection of the water sample into the vial while keeping the content of the vial confined.
Where to get it: Sigma Aldrich product link
Price: CHF 92.4 for a 100 caps

  • Safe Syringe: So we can safely inject the water sample into the vial.
Where to get it: BD product link
Price: Varies depending on the model chosen; from 30 $ to 80 $ for a 100 syringes.

  • Syringe Container; E-safe 0.5 l Universal A: To dispose of used needles.
Where to find it: You can find several online. We’d like to thank Dr. Sabrina Leuenberger for supplying one for free.
Price: ~ CHF 15

  • Retention Tank: Over which we do the manipulations.
Where to get it: It’s just a plastic box, look around you.
Price: Not much


Total price: ~ CHF 180 for a 100 samples

Let’s note that this amount can be reduced by choosing cheaper elements. Their might also be a way to reuse some of these elements if they are properly cleaned from all GMO after usage.

More Information

From our project
  • We are looking for ways to remove the syringe in this process - look at our efforts in the Double Cap Design