GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Possible usage of GM technology Labelling
Raw material GM corn yes
Enzymes, made with the aid of GM microorganisms no



For plants, starch is the universial substance to store energy and is mainly stored in bulbs, tubers, roots and seeds. In human food, it is the predominant carbohydrate. Chemically, starch consists of large, partly chain-like sugar molecules (polysaccharides).

Raw material of starch: whereas in Germany the main part of starch comes from potatoes (followed by corn and wheat) in the whole of the EU (7,7 Mio. t / annum) corn starch (49 %) is employed before wheat (29 %) and potatoes (22 %).


In uncountable types of food, starch is used in different variations and modifications as a binder, a thickening agent, supporting or bulking agent; e.g. in:

Modified starches are increasingly used in the food industry: which means that in order to take charge of one specific, closely determined technical and sensorial function of a foodstuff, starches are chemically, physically (through heat, pressure) or enzymatically modified. Modified starches are also used as a substitute substance for fat.

  • Declaration of list of ingredients: if starch gets physically or enzymatically modified, it is legally classified as an "ingredient". It then appears with the declaration "starch" on the list of ingredients.
  • On the other hand, if the starches are chemically modified, they are classified as an "additive" (with E-Numbers) and are declared accordingly. As with all additives, chemically modified starches are permitted.

Gene technonogy

The use of gene technology is possible with vegetable sources of starch, especially during the production of enzymes with which the starch is decomposed and modified.

  • Raw material starch: up to a certain amount corn starch can consist of genetically modified corn - in particular, if raw materials are imported from the USA or Argentina. In the EU, genetically modified maize is grown on a comparatively small area and nonetheless is not used as raw material for foodstuff. This may change in the case that the cultivation of GM maize increases in significance. Ingredients derived from several types of GM maize are approved in the EU.
    Soon also: starch from potatoes or wheat.
  • Enzymes: the enzymatic breakdown and modification of the starch are mainly carried out using amylases and other enzymes (glucose-isomerase, pullulanase). These are mainly made with genetically modified microorganisms.

Labelling: starch from genetically modified plants (corn, potatoes) is liable to be labelled.
Generally, enzymes (and the manner in which they were produced) are not mentioned on the list of ingredients.


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