GM food and feed, and traceability and labelling of GMOs: Guidance notes on the regulations

Last updated:
1 August 2007
Guidance on the traceability and labelling of GMOs and the GM Food and Feed Regulation, dealing with authorisation procedures and labelling issues.

New rules concerning genetically modified organisms (GMOs) became legally binding across all Member States on 18 April 2004, one covering Traceability and Labelling of GMOs (EC No. 1830/2003) and the other, the GM Food and Feed Regulation (EC No. 1829/2003), dealing with authorisation procedures and labelling issues.

Under the food and feed regulation, labelling is required for all food and feed products derived from GM sources, regardless of the presence of detectable novel genetic material in the final product and regardless of the quantity of intentionally used GM ingredient present. Such labelling rules apply at the point of sale to allow consumers choice over buying foods containing GM ingredients. All food and feed that contain, consist of or are produced from GMOs will have to be labelled.

Examples of ingredients produced from GM crops may include soya oil, soya flour, corn starch or glucose syrup. Example of a GM fresh produce approved for consumption is sweet maize (Bt11). At present, only ingredients derived from specific GM soya, maize, oilseed rape and cotton lines can legally be used for food in the European Union.

The GM Food and Feed Regulation provides for a threshold for the adventitious, or accidental presence, of GM material in non-GM food or feed sources, where food manufacturers need to demonstrate due diligence. This threshold is set at 0.9% but only applies to GMOs that have an EU authorisation. The temporary threshold of 0.5% for the presence of GM material not yet authorised but that had a favourable assessment from an EU scientific committee expired in April 2007. There is zero tolerance for any GM variety that is not approved, so any GMOs which do not fall within the above categories cannot be imported into the EU.

The Traceability and Labelling of GMOs Regulation creates a regime for tracing and identifying GMOs and food and feed products derived from GMOs at all stages of their placing on the market. In addition it will enable products to be withdrawn from the market if any unexpected adverse effects were to arise. The regulation requires business operators when using or handling GM products to transmit and retain information at each stage of the placing on the market. For example, where production starts with a genetically modified crop, the company selling the crop for feed production would have to inform any purchaser that it is genetically modified. Information must be retained for five years.

These rules are applicable in the EU or on entry to the EU and it is the responsibility of food manufacturers to ensure that any foods or food ingredients imported into the UK that are produced from GM crops are from approved varieties.