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Rules on GMOs in the EU - Introduction

In order to ensure that the development of modern biotechnology, and more specifically of GMOs, takes place in complete safety, the European Union has established a legal framework. Regulation (EC) 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed provides general framework for regulating genetically modified (GM) food and feed in the EU. This framework pursues the global objective of ensuring a high level of protection of human life and health and welfare, environment and consumer interests, whilst ensuring that the internal market works effectively. The Regulation is supplemented by Regulation (EC) 1830/2003 which ensures traceability and labelling of GMOs placed on the market.

Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment outlines the principles for, and regulates, experimental releases and the placing on the market of GMOs in the EU.

To help prevent contamination of conventional crops by GM crops, the European Commission has drawn up guidelines on the co-existence of genetically modified, conventional and organic crops.

Member States can adopt measures to avoid such contamination. However, the main responsibility for avoiding contamination ultimately lies with operators, such as farmers.

The main objectives of the Regulation on genetically modified food and feed are:

  • To protect human and animal health by introducing a safety assessment of the highest possible standards at EU level before any GM food and feed is placed on the market.
  • To have in place harmonised procedures for risk assessment and authorisation of GM food and feed that are efficient, time-limited and transparent.
  • To ensure clear labelling of GM food and feed in order to respond to consumers' concerns and enable them to make an informed choice; and to avoid misleading consumers.
  • To set labelling requirements for GM feed which provide farmers with accurate information on the composition and properties of feed, thereby enabling them to make an informed choice.