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

The setting-up of this website was financially supported by the European Union within the European Commission’s Sixth Framework Programme from 1 January 2005 until 28 February 2007.

The European Commission and other EU agencies are not responsible for the content.
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Labelling of GM Foods

Frequently Asked Questions

How long has labelling genetically modified foods been mandatory?

EU-wide regulations on labelling have existed since 1997, when the EU regulation on novel foods and food ingredients came into effect.

In 2003, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the governments of Member States decided on a new regulation on genetically modified food and feed. This new legislation further expanded labelling rules, replacing the novel foods regulation.

When does a product require labelling?

If a food is a genetically modified organism (GMO), it must be labelled – make no doubt about it.

For example: If genetically modified tomatoes (Flavr Savr tomato) or genetically modified corn on the cob make it to our product shelves, they must be clearly labelled – even when sold loose, without packaging. To date, no such products are on the market.

Processed foods and ingredients that are produced from genetically modified plants or microorganisms also require labelling. This has been the case without exception since April 2004, regardless of whether or not a GMO can be detected in the final product.

In short: All foods and ingredients that are produced in whole or in part from genetically modified organisms must show this information on their labels.

Do things like flavours and additives need to be labelled?

The same rules for foods and ingredients also apply to flavours and additives. If they are produced directly from genetically modified organisms, they must be labelled as such. This applies to the many different additives produced entirely or partially from GM maize or GM soy.

Labelling requirements for additives that are processed with the help of GM microorganisms remain unclear. For the time being, these additives are not labelled as long as the genetically modified microorganisms themselves do not make their way into the product.

What about labels for meat, eggs, and dairy products from livestock raised with GM feed?

Feeds containing GM plants or ingredients from GM microorganisms must be labelled. The foods made from animals raised with GM feed, however, such as meats, eggs, and dairy products, do not require labelling. They are considered foods made "with the help of GMOs" and are therefore exempted from labelling requirements.

Are there any other exceptions to labelling requirements?

Only products that are legally foods require labelling. Culture media for microorganisms, carrier substances (e.g. for vitamins and flavours), and processing aids (mostly enzymes) fall under this category of non-foods. These products are not labelled, even when they are produced from GMOs.

What happens when food gets “contaminated” with small amounts of GMOs? When does this need to be labelled?

Unintentional and technically unavoidable mixing only needs to be labelled if the GM content exceeds 0.9 percent (of the original ingredient).

This allowance is only valid under two conditions:

  • The affected producer must prove that the traces of GMO were technically unavoidable. If GMOs are mixed intentionally, labelling is always required.

  • The GMO that is present must be authorised in the EU and thereby considered safe.

Genetically modified plants are already being grown in Europe. Sooner or later, GM “contamination” is going to end up in my food. I don’t want genetic engineering in my food at all.

This assertion is essentially correct. Although sound and responsible practices can reduce the likelihood or degree of unintentional mixing, with genetically modified plants already being grown in our fields, unintentional mixing is never out of the question. On the farm, during transport, in storage, and during processing, windblown pollen or traces left in containers give many opportunities for mixing.

Nature is an "open system". Therefore, no crops can be grown in complete isolation. This holds true for organic agriculture as well. With the latest and most sensitive testing, traces of GM content have been detected even in organic foods.

The only way to ensure 100 percent purity of GM-free foods would be to stop the production of GMOs everywhere. Abandoning agricultural biotechnology is not realistic. GM crops already cover 90 million hectares worldwide with no known cases of negative effects.

If I’m forced to accept GM "contamination", do I have any freedom of choice at all?

Labelling gives consumers the right to choose products that were not intentionally or directly produced from genetically modified organisms.

It’s important to remember that GM labels are not warnings. They are simply there to inform consumers that the food contains genetically modified ingredients, which were authorised in the European Union and underwent a rigorous safety assessment. As demanded by EU regulations, these foods are exactly as safe as their conventional counterparts.

Who is enforcing these labelling requirements?

As is the case with other food laws and regulations, this falls under state jurisdiction and is carried out by official food surveillance organisations.

All Member States have labs specially equipped for this purpose. These labs abide by officially recognised, standardised practices.

Can I trust these labels?

You cannot always tell if something must be labelled just by looking at the end product. Oftentimes products that do not have detectable traces of GMOs still require a label. This new basis for labelling only works when a system of documentation is set in place for the entire production and supply chain. Every producer must obtain information that shows if the raw materials being used contain GMOs. They must also pass this information on to stakeholders further down the supply chain.

The entire food industry is now obligated to create a system of traceability, but whether or not a dependable system is successfully put in place still remains to be seen. A few problems still need to be resolved, especially when it comes to foreign trade.


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 13, 2005 [nach oben springen]

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