European Union/UK

(Source: EC Press Release: "...on Further Labelling Requirements for GMOs in Food and Feed"

Commissioner David Byrne welcomes political agreement of Council on further labelling requirements for GMOs in food and feed

David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, welcomed the political agreement reached today by the Agriculture Council on the Commission's proposal to label all genetically modified feed and to extend the current labelling requirements for genetically modified food.

David Byrne said: "This new law further ensures consumer choice through labelling of GMO derived food and also provides the farmer with information. I feel strongly that our citizens need to be able to make this choice. But I would also like to say that I deplore scaremongering about GMOs: every GMO authorised in the EU has been evaluated for its safety by independent scientists and there are no known adverse effects on human health from eating GMOs".

The Regulation as agreed today establishes a sound EU system to regulate the placing on the market and labelling of food and feed products derived from GMOs. It paves the way for the adoption of the traceability and labelling proposal in the Environment Council in December.

Details of the draft law


The draft law will add to the current rules the labelling of:

  • All foods produced from GMOs irrespective of whether there is DNA or protein of GM origin in the final product
  • All genetically modified feed


Already today, retailers have to label a food consisting of or containing GMOs. This also includes food produced from GMOs if traces of DNA or protein from the genetic modification is detectable in the final product (such as flour produced from genetically modified maize (see Annex 1). However, the labelling provisions do not cover some foods or food ingredients, such as highly refined soya or maize oil produced from GM-soya or GM-maize. The effect of today's agreement is to extend the current labelling requirements to also cover such food (soya or maize oil produced from GM-soya or GM-maize) and food ingredients produced from GMOs (biscuits with maize oil produced from GM-maize) and to allow consumers to exercise their freedom of choice. The label has to indicate "This product contains genetically modified organisms" or "... produced from genetically modified (name of organism)".


The agreement also introduces for the first time strict labelling requirements of GM-feed along the same principle as for GM food. Currently no labelling requirements are in place for feed produced from GMOs. The proposal will require labelling of, for example, GM-soy meal and any compound feed that includes in its composition the GM-soya meal. It will also require labelling of corn gluten feed produced from GM maize.

Threshold for labelling

Under current legislation the presence of GM material in conventional food does not have to be labelled if it is below 1% and if it can be shown to be adventitious and technically unavoidable. The Council agreed today on a threshold of no higher than 0,9%.

Presence of minute traces of GMOs in conventional food and feed

Minute traces of GMOs in conventional food and feed could arise during cultivation, harvest, transport and processing. Whether we like it or not this has become a reality. This is something that is not particular to GMOs. In the production of food, feed and seed, it is practically impossible to achieve products that are 100% pure.

With this background, the EU`s objective is to ensure legal certainty and establish certain thresholds above which conventional food and feed have to be labelled as consisting of or containing or being produced from a GMO.

GMOs scientifically assessed in the EU to be safe

Under current legislation, there is no tolerance threshold for the adventitious presence of GM material in food or feed which has not been authorised. The Commission had proposed a 1% threshold for the adventitious or technically unavoidable presence of such GM material, provided that the GM material has received a favourable EU scientific risk assessment and that the operator can demonstrate that its presence was technically unavoidable. Above this threshold the product will not be allowed on the market.

The Council decided today to set the threshold at 0,5% and to limit its application to 3 years. The Commission would however review the operation of this clause and make a proposal for its extension if appropriate.

Table 1. Labelling of GM-Food and GM-Feed Examples

Labelling required at present
Labelling required in future
GM Plant Chicory(2)
GM Seed Maize seeds
GM Food Maize, Soybean sprouts, Tomato
Food Maize flour (3)
Produced Highly refined maize oil, soybean oil, rape seed oil (4)
From GMOs Glucose syrup produced from maize starch \* MERGEFORMAT 4
Food from animals fed on GM feed Eggs, meat, milk
Food produced with the help of a GM enzyme bakery products produced with the help of amylase
Food additive/flavouring produced from GMOs Highly filtered lecithin extracted from GM soybeans used in chocolate \* MERGEFORMAT 4
GM Feed Maize(5)
Feed produced from a GMO Corn gluten feed, Soybean meal
Feed additive produced from a GMO Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

(1) The examples include foods which have not been authorised for marketing in the EU.
(2) One chicory has been approved for breeding purposes under Directive 90/220/EC, but not for food use
(3) DNA or protein of GM origin detectable in the final product.
(4) DNA or protein of GM origin not detectable in the final product.
(5) The current labelling rules entered into force in 1997, and do not include four GMOs approved prior to that date.

Other countries:

  1. Saudi Arabia
  2. Australia
  3. Brazil
  4. Canada
  5. China
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Hong Kong
  8. Israel
  9. Japan
  10. Korea
  11. Malaysia
  12. Russia
  13. Switzerland
  14. Taiwan
  15. Thailand
  16. USA

Related article:

  1. Pocket K No. 5 - Labeling GM Foods - View
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