DNA-NGS: Future of Botanical Testing?

SupplySide West 2015 Coverage

In a panel discussion about botanical testing methods during SupplySide West, industry experts addressed a top-of-mind issue: DNA testing. Elan Sudberg, CEO of Alkemist Laboratories, noted that DNA-Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is “newer and better than DNA barcoding.”

Danica Harbaugh Reynaud, Ph.D., CEO, CSO of Authentechnologies, also supported this method. She believes, “DNA testing is the future of testing. It’s the Gold Standard in many different areas. There’s no reason why it shouldn't be in this industry.”

She called DNA barcoding a “rough, crude way to test,” noting that it is not very sensitive. In contrast, DNA-NGS offers more specific, more in-depth coverage of samples. 

Harbaugh Reynaud said she recently worked on a project with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to compare DNA methods using various samples. “Only about 10% of raw materials could be used with broad DNA methods, and 0% of extracts,” she said. Meanwhile, with more specific DNA testing measures, “90% of raw materials were detected and identified, and 60% of extracts.”

Overall, she felt DNA-NGS testing has many advantages over DNA barcoding and other methods such as being highly specific, more sensitive, objective and able to detect unknown adulterants. One limitation, however, is that this method cannot be used to distinguish certain parts of the plants, such as whether a sample is derived from a plant’s leaves versus its roots.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, December 2015 (online 10/18/15)