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Genetically modified organisms (GMO)

GMOs are organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered not by reproduction and/or natural recombination but by the introduction of a modified gene or a gene from another variety or species.

There has been Community legislation on GMOs since 1998. EU action is designed to protect human health and the environment while following the rules of the single market. It deals with the use, dissemination, marketing and traceability of GMOs both in food intended for human consumption and in animal feed. It also concerns the implementation of the provisions on trans-boundary movements of GMOs laid down in the Cartagena Protocol on Biodiversity.

In 2004, after five years with no new marketing authorisations, the Commission authorised the placing on the market of certain GMO foods or foods containing GMOs and the marketing and growing of GMO seeds.

Before being placed on the market GMOs must first undergo a very strict assessment process. They are then labelled in accordance with labelling and product traceability requirements.

The reference laboratory for GMO assessment is the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). It coordinates the European network of reference laboratories for GMOs and works on detecting, identifying and quantifying the presence of GMOs in foodstuffs. The European Food Safety Authority also gives scientific opinions on GMOs.

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