GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Beer

 

Possible application of gene technology Labelling
Raw material GM maize yes
Enzymes, produced with the aid of GM micro-organisms no

 

Description of product

Beer that is brewed in Germany is subject to the "Biersteuergesetz", i.e., the "beer tax law". This modern version of the traditional "purity law" of 1516 limits the allowed ingredients of beer to water, yeast, hops and barley malt.

  • Beer that is brewed outside of Germany is not subject to this regulation and also may be sold in Germany without restriction. However, ingredients which are restricted in Germany, such as barley malt substitutes and chemical additives, must be indicated on the label. To date, enzymes used in the production process are not required to be declared.
  • In the case of beers using Saccharomyces cerevisiae, known as "brewers’ yeast", other malts (e.g. from rye or wheat), sugar and colouring derived from sugar may be used.
  • See also: spirits, wine

Possible application of gene technology

In the case of beers that are brewed according to the German purity laws, the direct use of gene technology currently is excluded. In the case of foreign beers, a variety of applications of gene technology is possible.

For example, the application of isolated enzymes is allowed in imported beer. The production of imported beer often is conducted with the aid of genetically modified organisms. In Germany, this is incompatible with the purity law and therefore is not allowed in the production of beer.

Outside of Germany, raw materials include not only barley and wheat but also maize, rice, glucose syrup and other starch products.

  • Imported beers from Central and South America often are brewed from maize. Genetically modified maize is grown on a large scale in many countries.

Modifications of yeast conversely are compatible with the purity law – irrespective of their being achieved through "classical" breeding or through the transfer of genes. The breeding of beer yeast has a very long tradition. One procedure used thereby is the provocation of mutations. Thereby, the enzymatic performance of the yeast is optimised.

  • A variety of genetically modified yeasts have been developed to the point of industrial readiness, particularly in the case of beers which have reduced alcohol or calories. To date, with the exception of smaller experimental breweries in the UK, such yeasts have not been put to use. German breweries have assured that they will not use such yeasts.
    As a rule, beer no longer contains yeast: it is filtered out and the beer is then pasteurised. However, in the case of specific types of "cloudy" beer, such as Weizenbier ("wheat beer") or Malzbier ("malt beer"), yeast remains present in the final product.
  • As a nutrient in the cultivation of yeasts, glucose syrup or other yeast products often are used.

The additive citric acid also may be applied in order to prevent the excessive loss of sugar from sprouted barley.

With Malzbier:

 

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