GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Stakeholder input wanted: survey on research needs for assessing GMO impacts 

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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Ingredients and Additives

Corn Syrup, Fructose, and Glucose - All Are Products of Starch

The transformation of starch into sugar is an important branch of the starch industry and is one of the most important applications of biotechnology. Countless foods contain ingredients produced by the breakdown of starch. Enzymes are the key to these chemical reactions - enzymes that are predominantly produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms.

Starches are chemically bound clusters of sugar molecules found in plants. Under the right conditions, starch molecules can be broken down into sugar. This process makes it possible to obtain sugar from the starch of many different plants, rather than just sugar beets or sugar cane. This is now being done by industrial-scale starch saccharification. The most important sources of starch are maize, potatoes, and wheat.

Examples of food ingredients and additives produced by the saccharification of starch:

  • Gucose syrup: Used in sweets, baked goods, and soft drinks

  • Dextrose (glucose): Sold pure or used in sweets and energy foods

  • Fructose: Sweetener for diabetics

  • Dextrin: Filler and thickener in sweets, convenience products; carrier substance for flavours and vitamins

  • Maltose (maltitol): Sweetener in sugar-free or low-sugar products

Strong acids were once used to break apart starch molecules and release sugar. Now, enzymes do the job offering many advantages: With enzymes, the process targets the proper chemical bonds much more precisely. Different enzymes can be used to produce syrups with different levels of sweetness and different technical characteristics. The end products are not only used as custom tailored ingredients in countless foods and drinks, they can also be further processed into glucose, artificial sweeteners, or fat substitutes.

For a long time, breaking down starch (saccharification) didn't make economic sense. Things changed, however, as soon as the enzymes responsible for this process became available at low cost, high quality, and at unlimited quantities. Now, almost all of the enzymes used to break down starch are produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms.

Genetic engineering: Starch and enzymes

Genetic engineering can be associated with starch derived sugars that are used in foods and beverages in two ways: The plant starch source can be genetically modified, and the enzymatic "tools" used for breaking down the starch can be made by genetically modified microorganisms.

  • Plant used as a starch source: When maize is used as a source of starch, a certain portion of the raw material may be genetically modified, as GM maize is common in the US and in other countries. When GM maize in Europe becomes more widespread, so will the proportion of GM content in starch processing. For potatoes, the second most important source of starch, GM cultivars with optimised starch content are getting closer to commercial cultivation.
  • Enzymes:  Most of the enyzmes used in starch saccharification are produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms. Some of these enzymes are economically impossible to produce without biotechnological methods. Certain procedures use "immobilised" enzymes, which are bound to a reaction surface. Rather than mixing freely, they remain fixed to a surface and are not present in the final product.

Labelling: It is impossible to tell by examining starch derived sugar products if the source material was genetically modified or if the enzymes used were produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms. Nonetheless, such products require labelling if they contain sugar products derived from the starch of genetically modified plants.

Enzymes do not need to be declared or listed, regardless of the way they were produced. 


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

January 26, 2006 [nach oben springen]

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