GMOs

Feed safety : Legislation : GMOs

GMOs are organisms such as plants, animals and micro-organisms (bacteria, viruses, etc.), the genetic characteristics of which have been modified artificially in order to give them a new property (e.g. for plants : resistance to a disease or insect, improvement of the nutritional value, increased crop productivity, a  tolerance to a herbicide, etc.). In order to ensure that this development of modern biotechnology, and more specifically of GMOs, takes place in complete safety, the European Union has established a legal framework comprising various acts:

  • The contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms, e.g. laboratory research (in a confined environment), is regulated by Directive 98/81/EC.
  • The experimental release of GMOs into the environment, in other words the introduction of GMOs into the environment for experimental purposes (e.g. for field testing), is governed by Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms.
  • The placing on the market of GMOs (products containing or consisting of GMOs), e.g. for cultivation, import or processing into industrial products, is subject to Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms;
  • The placing on the market of GMOs intended for food or feed and of food or feed products containing, consisting of or produced from GMOs is governed by Regulation (EC) 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed.
  • GMOs and food products derived from GMOs placed on the market must also comply with labelling and traceability requirements established in Regulation (EC) 1829/2003 and in Regulation (EC) 1830/2003 concerning the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms and the traceability of food and feed products produced from genetically modified organisms and amending Directive 2001/18/EC.  The Regulation(EC) 1830/2003 established a 0.9% level of adventitious GMO presence (ingredient based) as threshold value for obligatory labelling of food/feed products containing or comprising food/feed products.  The labelling obligation applies to all food and feed products consisting/containing GMOs; or produced from GMO (i.e. oil, gluten…), but does not apply to products (such as meat, milk or eggs) obtained from animals fed with genetically modified feed or treated with genetically modified medicinal products.  Labelling is moreover obligatory regardless of whether DNA or proteins derived from genetic modification are contained in the final product or not.
  • The use of GMO’s is considered as incompatible with the concept of organic production and consumer’s perception of organic products.  They should therefore not be used in organic farming or in the processing of organic products.  Regulation (EC) 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products consider that the aim is to have the lowest presence of GMO’s in organic products and existing labelling thresholds linked to the adventitious and technically unavoidable presence of GMO’s are applicable too (from 01/01/2009 onwards)
  • Unintentional movements of GMOs between Member States and exports of GMOs to third countries are governed by Regulation (EC) No 1946/2003 on transboundary movements of genetically modified organisms.
  • Recommendation 2004/787/EC proposes a technical guidance for sampling and detection of genetically modified organisms and material produced from genetically modified organisms.
  • Due to the possible accidental releases of non-authorized GMO on the market, Comission Decisions manage some emergency measures (see Decision 2005/317/EC and Decision 2006/578/EC).