Evaluating GM foods

Last updated:
9 October 2015
The current procedures for evaluation and authorisation of genetically modified (GM) foods are laid down in Regulation (EC) 1829/2003 on GM food and feed, which came into force in April 2004. The safety assessments are carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), according to its published guidelines for the assessment of GM plants.

Regulation (EC) 1829/2003 and the EFSA guidelines can be found via the 'External sites' links on this page.

Review of applications

Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, including a detailed consideration of the potential for toxic, nutritional and allergenic effects. GM foods may only be authorised for sale if they are judged not to present a risk to health, not to mislead consumers, and not to be of less nutritional value than the foods they are intended to replace.

EFSA is responsible for publishing information concerning applications submitted under this legislation. Further details can be found on its website via the link towards the end of this page.

Consulting Member States and other interested parties

In carrying out its evaluation, EFSA may consult the authority responsible for food safety assessment in one of the European Union (EU) Member States. In the UK this is the Food Standards Agency, which seeks expert advice on GM foods from the independent Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) as appropriate.

When an authorisation is requested that includes cultivation of GM crops for feed or food use or the importation of genetically modified plant material, EFSA will consult the national competent authorities designated under Directive 2001/18/EC, which deals with the deliberate release of GM organisms into the environment. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the contact point for the UK and more information can be found on its website via the link below.

EFSA's final opinion on each application is published for public comment before any decision on authorisation is taken. Interested parties are recommended to subscribe to the European Commission's food safety website to get the maximum notice of these consultation periods.

Final decision

The final decision on authorisation rests with Member States, who vote on each GM food at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. The European Commission maintains a Register of GM food and feed materials (see link below) that are authorised in the EU.

Effect of GM soya on newborn rats

In December 2005 the ACNFP issued a statement on a Russian study into the effect of GM soya on newborn rats. See the statement on the ACNFP website via the 'External sites' link on this page.

Use the FAO GM foods platform to access and share safety assessment information

FAO GM Foods Platform

You can use the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s international platform to access and share information on the safety assessment of GM foods. This information applies mainly to foods derived from GM (or recombinant DNA) plants authorised in accordance with the Codex Plant Guidelines. Visit the GM foods platform www.fao.org/gm-platform