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Genetically modified organisms (GMO)

GMOs are organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered not by reproduction and/or natural recombination but by the introduction of a modified gene or a gene from another variety or species.

EU legislation on GMOs seeks to:

  • protect human life, health and welfare;
  • protect the environment;
  • defend consumer interests;
  • ensure that the EU's single market works effectively.

It deals with the use, dissemination, marketing, labelling and traceability of GMOs both in food and in animal feed. There are common procedures for risk assessment and authorisation which are carried out by the European Food Safety Authority.

Current EU legislation on GMOs offers limited scope to EU countries to decide on GMO cultivation on their territory. In 2009, 13 of them called for more flexibility in this regard. The Commission issued proposals and in June 2014, the European Council reached political agreement on allowing EU countries to restrict or ban GMO cultivation on their territory.