GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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E 322 | Emulgator
Possible application of gene technology Labelling
Raw material GM soybean yes



Lecithin is a natural lipid and is found in all living cells. It may be found in high quantities in egg yolks and in many oil-producing plants, for example.

  • The quality of lecithin that is most important in the industrial processing of food is ist ability to maintain water and oil in a stable bond (emulsion). Normally, water and fats repel each other.


Lecithin is utilised always in cases in which water-based and fat-based ingredients must be combined. It prevents that water and fats separate, as would otherwise be the case due to their "physical nature". In many areas of food production, lecithin is essential as an emulgator. Lecithin is utilised in numerous food products that contain fats, such as in:

Gene technology

Lecithin is primarily obtained from plants that contain oils and, as a rule, from soybeans. Less valuable yields may be obtained from rapeseed, maize, sunflowers and peanuts. During processing in the oil mill, the soybeans are separated into the protein-rich fodder and the fat component. The raw lecithin that is extracted from the soybean mass is purified in several Stepps. Lecithin, in the form in which it is used in the manufacture of food products, is free of soya DNA. As a rule, therefore, it cannot be determined whether GM soybeans were used in the manufacture of a lecithin preparation.

Soybeans:as a rule, soya raw materials that are traded internationally stem either wholly or partially from genetically modified plants. GM soybeans are grown on a large scale in Argentina and the USA, for example. The EU imports a large part of its soya raw materials from these countries.
Some food producers process exclusively conventional soya raw materials. An absolute separation at all levels of processing between conventional and GM soybeans however is not technically possible. Therefore, even raw materials declared to be "free of gene technology" may contain small quantities of GMO.

Labelling: lecithin from genetically modified plants (soybeans) is subject to labelling. Accidental, technically-unavoidable GMO-admixture in soya raw materials with a maximal component of 0.9 per cent does not result in the necessity of labelling for food products that are manufactured therefrom.


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