Dose of Science
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Mary Parker, Gary Hobbs

How We Track Chemicals in Crops (Video)

Using radioactive labels, Charles River scientists can see where a chemical travels in plants. Part of our Crops and Chemicals series

We are heading into the high days of the growing season. Agricultural corridors are producing everything from apples to zinnias. Have you ever wondered what happens when these crops intersect with chemicals in the ground or in the water?

These are not academic questions. Consumers worry what is in the food that they eat. It is important to know exactly where the chemical can go, and how it can affect the environment.

Tracking these chemicals is a focus of Gary Hobbs’ job at Charles River. Gary is a study director of crop metabolism and field residues at Charles River’s Edinburgh site. His lab uses radioactive labels to see where a chemical goes in a plant. These radiolabel compounds enable accurate quantification and identification of residues within food or feed products, which is a powerful tool in ensuring all residues can be accounted for and that no potential unsafe residues remain.

“One of the questions that can be asked is: Where are the residues in the plant? Or, to take it further, are there any agrochemical residues on my apple, in my grain or in my food,” said Gary in this recent Dose of Science video feature.

Hobbs said the main reason to conduct a study is to assist with product development. “If you're developing a product which eradicates say, stem-boring insects, it's quite useful to know that your product is in the stem of a plant, which is the target for the insect. Otherwise, it is not there, it's not going to be effective,” said Hobbs. “

The other key reason is to conduct a translocation study, to assist with the products registration. These types of studies are required by certain authorities to register a new product on the market, for example, the Indian registration.

We hope you enjoy this episode of A Dose of Science, produced and moderated by Senior Scientific Writer Mary Parker. Check out this earlier article about the History of Agrochemical Testing, part of Eureka's ongoing series on Crops and Chemicals.