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

Sweets, Chocolate, and Ice Cream

Chocolate and biscuits, sweets and ice cream - most of our sweet snacks were made with the help of genetic engineering. You won't find this information on a label, however, because content from genetically modified crops stays below labelling thresholds, and additives made from GM microorganisms do not require labelling.

Sugars from Starch. Sugar beets and sugarcane aren’t the only plants that make things sweet. Starch products such as glucose syrup (corn syrup) are commonly used as sugar by food producers. Even though they’re derived from maize or potatoes, sugars derived from starches are chemically identical to granulated table sugar (sucrose) from conventional sources. When chain-like starch molecules are broken down, the result is a mixture of sugar molecules in the form of a syrup that is easier to process than table sugar. The enzymes (e.g. amylase) used to transform corn starch into glucose syrup are predominantly produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms.

Chocolate, Ice Cream. Genetic engineering is used in the production of countless products. Most of them are not affected by labelling requirements.

Glucose syrup is the basis for many ingredients that are used in sweets, for example:

  • Dextrose (grape sugar)

  • Sugar substitutes like sorbit

  • Maltodextrin and other modified starches

Any ingredient made from converted starch can be involved with genetic engineering in two ways. First, the enzymes used to break down starch are usually made with the help of genetically modified microorganisms. Second, the raw material used as a starch source could be from a genetically modified plant like GM maize. GM maize is commonly grown in the USA, Argentina, and even in parts of Europe.

Soy ingredients. Genetic engineering is also difficult to avoid when it comes to lecithin, an emulsifier derived from soy that is used in many chocolates, ice creams, and desserts. Other ingredients commonly used in sweets and desserts that are derived from soy include:

  • Fats, oils, and fat-based coatings

  • Numerous emulsifiers made from modified fatty acids

Almost 60 percent of the world soybean crop is genetically modified. Europe imports almost all of its soybeans from Brazil, the USA, and Argentina, countries where GM soybean is widespread. “GM-free” soybeans can only be obtained from certain regions of Brazil.

In order to avoid using GM ingredients and thereby forgo GMO labelling, some food producers have replaced soy with alternative raw materials. For instance, rapeseed or sunflower oil is sometimes used instead of soy oil. It is also possible to replace soy lecithin with other emulsifiers.

No sugar yet from GM sugar beet. In North America, cultivation of GM sugar beets started in 2007. Although sugar produced therefrom is approved in the European Union, there is very little of it in the local food assortment so far. Until now only conventional sugar beets are grown in Europe.

Additives. Sweets contain a number of additives that are often produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms:

  • Citric acid (E 330)
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin colouring / E 101), vitamin C (ascorbic acid / E 300)
  • The sweetener, aspartame (E 951)
  • Beta-carotene colouring (E 160a)
  • Thickening agent, xanthan (E 415)

Additives made with the help of genetically modified microorganisms do not require labelling. Additives produced by GM microorganisms are no different from the same substances produced by other methods.


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: The Big Four
Rape Seed
Global GM Crop Production in 2013
December 17, 2008 [nach oben springen]

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