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Traceability and labelling

What is traceability?

Traceability enables tracking GMOs and GM food/feed products at all stages of the supply chain.

Traceability also makes labelling of all GMOs and GM food/feed products possible. It allows for close monitoring of potential effects on the environment and on health. Where necessary it can allow the withdrawal of products if an unexpected risk to human health or to the environment is detected.

Who ensures traceability?

All operators involved, i.e. farmers or food and feed producers who introduce a product in the supply chain or purchases such a product must be able to identify their supplier and the companies to which the products have been delivered.

Operators must provide their customers with the following information, in writing:

  • an indication that the product - or certain ingredients – contains, consists of, or is obtained from GMOs

  • information on the unique identifier(s) for these GMOs

  • In the case of products consisting of or containing mixtures of GMOs to be used only as food or feed or for processing, this information may be replaced by a declaration of use by the operator. It has to be accompanied by a list of the unique identifiers for all those GMOs that have been used to constitute the mixture

Operators must also ensure that the information is passed on in writing to those who are next in the supply chain.

For a period of five years after every transaction within the supply chain, every operator must keep a record of this information and be able to identify the operator from whom they bought the products and the one to whom he or she supplied them.

GM Labelling

Labelling provides information for consumers and allows them to make an informed choice.

In the case of pre-packaged GM food/feed products, the list of ingredients must indicate "genetically modified" or "produced from genetically modified [name of the organism]".

In the case of products without packaging these words must still be clearly displayed in close proximity to the product (e.g a note on the supermarket shelf).

These labelling requirements do not apply to GM food/feed products in a proportion no higher than 0.9 percent of the food/feed ingredients considered individually and if this presence is adventitious or technically unavoidable.

GM-free labelling

There exist "GM-free labels" pointing out that, in addition to what is laid down by the EU legislation on GMOs, specific measures have been taken on a voluntary basis to strictly exclude the presence or the use of GMOs in some food or feed products. Such voluntary labels are possible provided that they are not misleading for the consumer.

A study was performed by an external consultant for the Commission, in order to take stock of existing GM free labels in place or in development in the EU, and to analyse their respective features.

Study: State of play in the EU on GM-free food labelling schemes and assessment of the need for possible harmonisation: