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Genetically modified organisms (GMO)

GMOs are organisms (apart from human beings) whose genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.

EU legislation on GMOs aims to:

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

It deals with the use, deliberate release into the environment and marketing of GMOs, including genetically modified food and animal feed, based on an assessment of their risks to health and the environment. It sets out common procedures for risk assessment and authorisation, which are carried out by the European Food Safety Authority or by EU Member States, and it includes requirements on post-market monitoring, labelling and traceability of GMOs. The legislation provides for flexibility for Member States to restrict or prohibit cultivation of GMOs on their territory.

At the international level, the EU is a party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity; the obligations set out in that protocol concerning exports of GMOs are implemented in the EU through legislation on cross-border movements of GMOs.