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.

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News Messages

February 2007 March 2007 April 2007
28 March 2007
New and expiring approvals for GM plants in Europe

The European Commission has authorised market placement for the oilseed rapes Ms8, Rf3 as well as their offspring Ms8xRf3. Covering the use of the plants for import, as well as their being processed into animal feed or for industrial purposes, the decision is valid for ten years. It includes measures to be taken by the company which developed the GM oilseed rapes to prevent damage to health or the environment in the event of accidental spillage. The cultivation of these GM oil seed rapes is not allowed in the EU, but processed oil derived from these plants already had been approved in 1999 and 2000 for food use in the EU.

The EU also has withdrawn approval for the marketing of five genetically modified plants. The two maize plants (Bt176, GA21xMON810) and three rapeseed lines (Ms1xRf1, Ms1xRf2, Topas 19/2) will lose marketing authorisation on 18th April 2007. Approvals had been provided at the end of the 1990s within the legislative framework existing at that time. Since these varieties are no longer in use or of commercial interest to companies, applications for renewal are not expected. The European Commission has requested that Bayer CropScience and Monsanto destroy remaining seeds. Upon confirmation by the Commission, a formal resolution will come into force at the end of April and will allow traces of up to 0.9 percent of these GM plants during the next five years.

Statement of the European Commission
GMO Database: MS8 x RF3
GMO Database: GA21 x MON810
GMO Databse: Bt176
28 March 2007
Marked increase of GM plantings in France

French farmers will cultivate significantly more genetically modified plants in 2007. Referring to statements by a spokesperson of the French maize growers' association, AGPM, Reuters reports that between 30,000 and 50,000 hectares of Bt-Maize MON810 will be cultivated in the upcoming season. In the previous year, only 5,000 hectares of GM plants were found on French fields. MON810 is the only GM plant approved in France for commercial cultivation.

Exact data are not available, as the registration of GM cultivation sites is not mandatory - a consequence of the fear that the fields may be destroyed by anti-GMO groups. However, concerning the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment, France has issued a new regulation which also includes a national site register. The resolution also declared isolation distances of 50 metres between GM plants and conventional fields a requirement for the cultivation of genetically modified plants.

The Bt-maize MON810 incorporates resistance against the corn borer. By now, 47 different plants are in the EU catalogue of varieties, all of which are derived from MON810.

Co-Extra: New legislation in France defines rules for co-existence
Statement from the French Ministry of Agriculture (FR)
21 March 2007
German coexistence study recommends 20 metres buffer zone

A pollen barrier of 20 metres of conventional maize is enough to separate GM and conventional maize fields and to keep out-crossings below 0.9 percent. This is the result from a coexistence study published in the most recent issue of Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science.

The research was conducted in 2004. Accompanying the first field scale cultivation of the GM maize MON810 in Germany, a team of scientists tested samples from surrounding conventional maize for GM content at distances of 0 to 60 metres in all four directions. No samples collected at more than ten metres from the GM maize field showed GM levels above the labelling threshold of 0.9 percent.

GM seed producers in Germany already took these results into account as soon as the experiments had been evaluated in 2005.

Publication in the Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science
Co-Extra: Pollen move dynamics and coexistence
GMO-Safety: Recommendations for studies for separation distances
16 March 2007
GM maize MON863: French scientists doubt safety

In a new study funded by Greenpeace, a group of French scientists has raised doubts again about the food safety of the genetically modified maize MON863, which is resistant to the corn root worm and has been approved for cultivation in North America and for food and feed in the EU and several other countries.

The complete data from a rat feeding study, carried out by Monsanto in support of its application for approval to market in the EU, was acquired by Greenpeace. The organisation then commissioned a group of scientists from CRIIGEN (France) to analyse the data. The team of scientists led by Gilles-Eric Séralini have produced a peer-reviewed scientific paper stating that their statistical analysis shows significant levels of liver and kidney damage in some rats fed with MON863 in comparison with rats fed on an equivalent non-GM diet. The CRIIGEN group concludes that additional feeding experiments over a longer period are required for a reliable food safety assessment of this GM variety. In response to this publication, Greenpeace are calling for MON863 to be removed from the market and for a review to be conducted of all other GM crops that have been subjected to similar rat feeding studies.

Last year, experts of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had already discussed this animal feeding study with authorities of several EU member states and other countries. The established scientific view is that the statistical differences in the study are within the normal range of variability found in feeding studies of this type and have no biological or safety significance. EFSA’s scientific experts in the GMO panel will meet on 22nd and 22rd of March to consider and discuss the new study.

In reaction to the publication of the CRIIGEN scientists, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) also stated that the differences found between rats fed with the GM maize and with conventional feeds prove neither negative nor positive effects. “If you look for statistical differences between the differently fed animal groups, you are going to find them”, said a spokesperson of the BVL.

Monsanto announced its intention to examine the report, but the company also stressed that MON863 maize is considered to be safe for human and animal consumption in the opinion of many expert authorities and has full regulatory approval in several countries.

GMO-Compass: EU approval of MON863
EFSA response
Greenpeace report on Séralini study (PDF)
14 March 2007
Dead cows: Court dismisses Bt maize case

According to a report in the German newspaper Wetzlarer Neue Zeitung, the regional court in Gießen will dismiss a plaint by farmer Gottfried Glöckner from Wölfersheim (Hesse) against the agro-company Syngenta. As part of field trials between 1997 and 2002, Glöckner had grown genetically modified maize from Syngenta and had fed it to his cows. When some of his cows died, Glöckner declared the Bt maize in their feed as the cause. However, follow-up investigations were unable to support this assumption: the death of the cows was considered more likely to be the consequence of mistakes in husbandry.

Glöckner had claimed damages from Syngenta in the amount of 700,000 euros. Since no cogent proof for a connection between the Bt maize in the feed and the deaths of the cows could be presented, the regional court rejected the case.

12 March 2007
Court rulings criticise US Department of Agriculture for GMO approvals

In the second court ruling against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) within nine days, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California in San Francisco criticised the USDA as "cavalier". Judge Breyer further stated that the department had violated the law by failing adequately to assess possible environmental impact before approving a genetically modified alfalfa developed by Monsanto.

This verdict follows a ruling in the District of Columbia on field tests of genetically modified bentgrass developed by Monsanto and The Scotts Company. In this case, Judge Harold Kennedy had stated that there is "substantial evidence that the field tests may have had the potential to affect significantly the quality of the human environment," and declared that the USDA should not process any further field test permits without conducting a more thorough review.

In the case of the GM alfalfa, the lawsuit was filed by The Center for Food Safety in collaboration with farmers, consumers, and environmentalists. Judge Breyer requested the parties to determine jointly acceptable corrective measures but, according to Will Rostov, a senior filing attorney, these efforts have failed. Subsequently, critics of GM crops have requested a permanent injunction to stop the planting of Monsanto's genetically modified alfalfa.

To date, Monsanto has announced the intent to file a motion for intervention in the closely watched case. The company argues that its GM alfalfa, which was genetically engineered to tolerate Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, has been approved by numerous regulatory agencies and has a confirmed safety record.

The Center for Food Safety claims that GM alfalfa could create super-weeds resistant to herbicide. Also, since alfalfa is important cattle feed, and due to the risk of contamination of natural and organic alfalfa, GM alfalfa may damage production of organic dairy and beef products and thereby undermine farmers’ exports.

GMO-Compass: Global GM planting 2006
GMO-Compass: Application and approval status of GMOs in the EU
12 March 2007
Future approvals of GMOs in Brazil to become more likely

On February 27, the Senate in Brazil approved a resolution intended to facilitate the approval of new genetically modified plants. Under the current approval system, a GM plant must receive a two-thirds majority vote from the CTNBio commission, which consists of 27 members of various ministries and includes representatives of the science and technology departments of the environmental and health ministries. Under the new resolution, only 14 votes instead of 18 would be required for a new approval.

For this resolution to be adopted, President Lula must authorise it within 15 days. According to a report in the local newswire, Agencia Estado, the Minister for the Environment, Marina Silva, is planning with others to lobby to block the presidential endorsement. Environmentalists warn that the dangers of genetically modified crops are little-known and, furthermore, could contaminate surrounding land, pose hazards to human health, and impoverish Brazil's rich biodiversity.

Brazil is among the world's top exporters of soy, sugar and ethanol and, to date, permits GM cultivation only of Roundup Ready soy and Bollgard cotton, both products of Monsanto. Ten further applications are pending: six for GM maize, three for GM cotton and one for GM rice.

GMO-Compass: Are GMOs fuelling the Brazilian future?
06 March 2007
German Federal Cabinet approves cornerstone paper for amended Gene Technology Act

The German Federal cabinet unanimously approved the key points of the federal minister of agriculture, Horst Seehofer, for the amendment of the current gene technology act. After lengthy internal discussion, the cabinet cleared the first hurdle towards the amendment, which had been agreed upon in the coalition treaty. Incorporation of the cornerstone paper into the Gene Technology Act will have no far-reaching effects upon current regulations on the cultivation of GM plants.

For the cultivation of GM maize, a distance of 150 metres between GM and conventional plants will be required in the future. Farmers growing GM plants will be subject to special guidelines of Good Farming Practice and will be responsible for economic losses resulting from non-adherence to these rules. Affected conventional farmers also retain their entitlement to compensation for damage caused by GMO presence outside of the separation zones. Furthermore, even when bearing no individual personal responsibility, all GMO-cultivating farmers within a region are collectively liable. This joint risk is intended to be absorbed by a voluntary commitment from seed producers.

It remains necessary for all cultivation sites of GM plants to be entered in the site register of the German Federal Bureau for Consumer Protection, BVL. However, the public will have access only to information on the relevant land boundaries and not to information on individual land parcels.

On the issue of research field trials, the key point paper provides more details to some topics which have been controversial to date. For example, particular attention needs to be paid to ensuring that no GMO traces enter the food and feed chain as a result of such experiments.

Press release Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection
GMO Safety: Outcrossing from transgenic maize and quantifying outcrossing rates
GMO-Compass: Coexistence in Germany
05 March 2007
GM starch potato: still no cultivation in 2007

The Amflora potato, developed by BASF Plant Science with an altered starch composition, apparently may not yet be cultivated this year in the EU. As reported by the magazine Agrar Europe, the European Commission has requested an opinion from the European Medicines Agency, EMEA, as prerequisite to an approval decision.

The subject of interest is the marker gene used in the potato, making it resistant against the antibiotic kanamycin. GM plants are only approved in the EU, if the containing resistance gene has no harmful effects on health and environment. According to a current study by the World Health Organisation, WHO, the relevant antibiotic kanamycin may have a greater importance in veterinary medicine than has been assumed to date. However, the European Food Safety Authority has already identified no safety concerns which may have an adverse effect upon approval.

The Amflora potato contains only starch with the amylopectin component, and delivers renewable raw material to the starch industry. Its cultivation was planned already for 2007. Three cultivation areas have been registered provisionally in the site register of the Federal Bureau for Consumer Protection, BVL.

GMO-Compass: Amflora approval
GMO-Compass: Why Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Transgenic Plants?
GMO-Compass: Alternatives to Antibiotic Resistance Marker Genes

Messages 2015
Messages 2013
Messages 2012
Messages 2011
The issue of contradictory results of biosafety studies
Opposition decreasing or acceptance increasing?
An overview of European consumer polls on attitudes to GMOs
German ban on MON810 maize: will the courts now decide?
China plans to invest in GM crops R&D and consumer education
"Find the wisdom to allow GM technology to flourish"
Results of the GMO Compass snapshot poll
Genetic engineering of cut flowers
Preliminary studies raise hopes: Golden Rice works well!
GMO labelling of foodstuffs produced from animals – the discussion continues
GM Crops in Australia – will the moratoria end?
International study: consumers would buy GM products
GM plants no problem for the honey industry
Are GMOs Fuelling the Brazilian Future?
Latest Eurobarometer: Yes to Biotech – No to GM Food
Barley, Beer and Biotechnology
Farm Fresh Pharmaceuticals
Study: GM Soy Dangerous for Newborns?
Safety evaluation: GM peas in Australia with unexpected side-effects
The western corn rootworm: A pest coming to a maize field near you
Plants for the Future
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