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Biotechnology: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in agriculture

One example of the many applications of modern biotechnology is the use of GMOs in the food production chain. 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 (a plant's resistance to a disease or insect, increased crop productivity, a plant's tolerance of a herbicide, etc.).

In order to ensure that this development of modern biotechnology, and more specifically of GMOs, is safe, the European Union has established a legal framework covering various aspects, for example:

  • 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);
  • 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;
  • transboundary movements of GMOs between Member States and exports of GMOs to third countries;
  • the labelling and traceability requirements for GMOs and food products derived from GMOs must comply with when placed on the market.

More details on these issues as well as the legislation establishing the conditions under which GMO or a food product derived from GMOs may be developed, used or marketed, can be found on the Commission's 'Biotechnology' website.

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