GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Vegetable Oil


Description of product

Vegetable oil, cooking oil and salad oil are terms for oils derived from various vegetable sources.

If a cooking oil is labelled according to its plant source (e.g. canola/rapeseed oil or sunflower oil), at least 97% of it must come from that plant. If it is labelled "pure", 100% of the oil must be derived from the specified source.

  • The most widespread oilseeds processed in Germany are rapeseed/canola, sunflower, soy and coconut palm.
  • Oil can also be derived from thistle/safflower, olives, corn, wheat, cottonseed, flax/linseed, nuts (walnut, peanut), grape-seed and pumpkin seeds.
  • The physical (consistency, spreadability) and nutritional qualities of a particular oil are determined by its unique composition of fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are generally considered to be health-promoting.

Oils can be extracted from plants by pressing or extraction. In order for some oils, such as soybean and rapeseed oil, to be palatable, refinement is needed. This removes unwanted flavours, mucilage and residual solvents.
Refining oil destroys DNA, the genetic material of plants. Therefore, the use of plant genetic engineering is not detectable in oils after refinement.

Liquid oils must undergo processing in order to be used as solid spreads.

Use: vegetable oils may be consumed directly in unmodified form, or they may be used in liquid or solidified form in a vast array of prepared food such as:

Possible application of gene technology

Genetically modified cultivars of several oilseed and oil-producing plants are currently under commercial production:

  • soybean (USA, Argentina, Brazil): large quantities imported into the EU
  • rapeseed (Canada)
  • maize (USA, Argentina, Canada, South Africa)
  • cotton (USA, Australia, China)
  • flax / linseed (approved in Canada, currently no commercial production)

GM rapeseed and maize varieties have been tested and produced on a small scale in Europe. Projects on additional GM crops are underway:

Fatty acids may undergo modification (transesterification) to optimise them for particular applications. This could entail the use of enzymes produced by GM microorganisms.

Labelling: oils and fats require labelling if derived from GM plants (e.g. soybean, maize, rapeseed). This is irrespective of whether or not GM material is detectable in the final product.


 GMO Database
GM Food and Feed: Authorization in the EU
GMO Database: Contains information on every GM plant that has been approved or is awaiting authorisation in the EU.
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