GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Shaping the Future of GMO Research

Stakeholder with interests in the risk and/or benefit assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are invited to take part in an online survey.

The aim of this survey is to identify which research needs should be prioritised, thereby contributing to the commissioning of research on the health, environment and economic impacts of GMOs.

The survey will close on 15th July 2015.

More information and access to the online survey

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Maize is the only GM crop that is grown commercially in the EU. For the most part, maize is used for feeding livestock and as raw material for the starch industry. Starch, however, forms the basis of many foods and food additives.

Genetically modified maize was grown for the first time in the US and Canada in 1997. Since then, GM maize production has expanded to more than 35 million hectares worldwide. Now, about 80 per cent of the maize produced in the US is genetically modified. Many countries in North and South America, Africa, and Asia grow GM maize. Two traits are expressed by today’s GM maize cultivars: insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. More and more, cultivars are being grown that express both of these traits simultaneously (stacked genes).

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A field with genetically modified Bt maize near Seville. About 80,000 hectares of GM maize are now grown in Spain.

Photo: Fundacion Antama,

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Damage from the European corn borer. The larvae chew through and hollow out the corn stalk, eventually causing the plant to tip over. These plants cannot be harvested.

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Secondary effects. Damage from the corn borer gives fungal diseases a way of entry. These diseases can produce poisons that contaminate food and feed.

GM maize in the EU: The first lines of GM maize were approved in the EU in 1997. Spain became Europe’s first country to put it to use. Today, 79,269 hectares of Spanish maize production, is genetically modified. In addition, production is now taking place to a lesser extent in the Czech Republic, Portugal and Germany.

The GM maize planted in Europe produces a substance that enables it to defend itself against a persistent pest known as the European corn borer. The larvae of the corn borer chew through maize stalks, which can cause the plant to tip over. In addition, insect damage provides an entryway for fungal diseases that can lead to the presence of poisonous mycotoxins.

These factors offer some interesting advantages to farmers who grow GM maize. When the corn borer is widespread, farmers not only reclaim yield that would have been lost, but also save the cost of using chemical or biological pest control methods.

Products from GM maize: Europe is largely self-sufficient when it comes to maize production. The Member States that formed the EU produce approximately 173 million tonnes of ensilage maize and 56 million tonnes of grain maize. An additional 10 million tonnes are imported predominantly from Argentina, where large-scale GM maize production is common.

When GM maize is grown in Europe, special rules need to be observed. Uncontrolled mixing of GM and conventional maize must be avoided. Food and feed that is made from GM maize must be labelled.

If European GM maize production were to increase substantially, consumers could  expect to find products containing GM maize on the market.

Animal feed and starch production: Only a small fraction of the maize in Europe is directly used for producing food.

  • Most maize grown today is used as animal feed. To produce animal feed from maize, rather than harvesting only the ears, farmers harvest the entire plant. The maize is cut down, shredded, and  processed by fermentation into what is known as silage.

  • Only a few foods are produced directly from maize. Some examples: Cornflakes, popcorn, canned sweet corn, corn on the cob, or corn oil.

  • Maize, along with wheat and potatoes, is an important source of starch in Europe. About half the starch derived from maize is used in food production. The remainder is used as a renewable raw material for the production of paper, packaging materials, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and much more.

  • Maize starch is used as a raw material in the production of numerous food additives such as corn syrup, corn sugar (glucose or dextrose), modified starch, and sugar substitutes.


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information


GMO Soybeans & Sustainability

Less soil erosion and fuel consumption: herbicide tolerant soybeans are promoting sustainable cultivation methods.


Glyphosate in European agriculture

Interview with a farmer

Glyphosate containing herbicides are not only used in fields with GM crops. They also allow conventional farmers to sow directly into stubble fields without ploughing. Glyphosate has replaced mechanical weed control in many crops and has had an important impact on agricultural practices and crop yields in Europe over the past few decades.

European Glyphosate Task Force

Crops and Cereals
Gm Plants: Cultivation and Futur Projects
Rape Seed
Sugar beet
December 3, 2008 [nach oben springen]

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