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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Processed Foods

Dairy Products and Eggs

Cheese, eggs, and milk products are not genetically modified themselves, but they may contain ingredients and additives that were produced from genetically modified microorganisms. Hard cheeses contain an enzyme produced by GM microorganisms that would otherwise have to be collected from the stomachs of calves.

Cheese. To make cheese, milk must be curdled until it is reaches a thick, fluid consistency. In the production of hard cheeses, this first step is triggered by the enzyme chymosin. Chymosin is added to milk and breaks down milk proteins causing them to clump together and separate from the watery whey.

Milk, cheese, and dairy products: Some additives can be produced by genetically modified microorganisms.

Cheese: Chymosin is an enzyme that causes milk to curdle. It is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of cheese produced in the US and Great Britain is made with chymosin produced by genetically modified microorganisms. Chymosin is also used in other European countries.
(Photo: NCBE)

Traditionally, this enzyme preparation, sometimes known as rennin, was extracted from frozen calf stomachs. The active ingredient is chymosin, an enzyme produced in the stomach of suckling calves needed for breaking down cow’s milk.

It is now possible to produce chymosin in genetically modified fungi. These modified microorganisms contain the gene derived from the stomach of calves that is responsible for producing chymosin. When grown in a bioreactor, they release chymosin into the culture medium. Afterwards, the enzyme is extracted and purified yielding a product that is 80 to 90 percent pure. Natural rennin contains only 4 to 8 percent active enzyme.

Chymosin produced by genetically engineered microorganisms is now used to produce cheese in many different countries.

Additives. Various milk products may contain additives that are often produced by genetically modified microorganisms. For example:

  • Beta-carotene colouring (E 160a); used as a yellow dye in butter during the winter - also used in some dairy desserts and yogurt.

  • Riboflavin colouring (E 101: Vitamin B2); used in cheeses and cream products

  • Preservatives: Natamycin (E 235), Nisin (E 234), Lysozyme (E 1105); approved for use in cheeses

Dairy desserts, creams, and puddings sometimes contain emulsifiers and thickeners made from GM soybeans or GM maize.

Egg products. Many industrially produced cream products use dried egg powder instead of fresh eggs. In order to preserve egg powder and maintain its colour, two enzymes are added (lipase and glucose oxidase) that are often produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms. Dried egg powder can also be found in baked goods, pasta, and noodles.

Animal feed. Just like meat products, eggs, milk, and dairy products are often derived from animals that were raised with genetically modified feed. Soy makes up the basis for most animal feeds and is imported into the EU mostly from the US, Brazil, and Argentina. It is estimated that 60 to 90 percent of world soybean exports come from genetically modified plants. Raising livestock with GM feed does not affect the quality of the resulting food products.


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

December 7, 2006 [nach oben springen]

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