Monsanto uses GMOs

Six things you should know about GMOs 

1. What does the term "genetically modified organism" (GMO) mean?

GMOs are organisms whose genetic material has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally through fertilization or natural recombination of genes. The genetic material is artificially modified in order to give it new properties (for example, in the case of a plant, resistance to diseases, insects or drought, or higher cultivation productivity).

2. Which food and feed are mainly involved?

Corn, cotton, soybeans, oilseed rape and sugar beet.

3.Are GMOs allowed in the EU?

EU approval is required for the cultivation of GMOs, the placing on the market of GMOs and the use of products obtained from them in the food and feed chain. This is linked to a thorough scientific risk assessment.

One GMO was approved in 1998. This is the GM maize variety MON810. At the moment the approval has expired. MON810 maize was mainly grown in Spain in 2013 and partly also in four other EU member states (in Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia).

In 2013, eight EU member states banned the cultivation of GMOs on their territory (Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary, Greece and Italy). From April 2015, other member states were able to ban the cultivation of GMOs.

There are currently eight applications pending for approval of GMOs intended for cultivation in the EU, including the renewal of approval for MON810 maize.

  • Placing GMOs on the market (imports from third countries):

Currently are 58 GMO Approved in the EU for use in food and feed. These include corn, cotton, soybeans, oilseed rape and sugar beet. 58 applications for approval are pending.

In 2013 the EU needed 36 million soybeans or similar feed to feed the farm animals. Of this, 1.4 million tonnes was non-GM soy that was grown in the EU. The EU is therefore dependent on imports.

Please see our infographic for more information.

4. Do we already consume GMOs?

Most of the genetically modified organisms authorized in the EU are feed (for farm animals). Only a few imported genetically modified (GM) foods are offered.

According to EU legislation, all food and feed containing, consisting of or manufactured from GMOs must be labeled as such (unless the proportion of GM material does not exceed 0.9% of the food and feed ingredients) .

EU legislation does not prohibit products from being labeled with a "GMO-free" logo, which indicates that the food does not contain GM crops.

5.What is the approval process for GMOs?

A distinction must be made between the cultivation and the placing on the market of GMOs.

  • Approval for cultivation is granted at EU level. However, the EU Member States have the final say. A directive passed in April 2015 allows EU member states to ban the cultivation of GMOs on their territory at any time (both during the authorization process and after authorization has been granted). The ban can be for a number of reasons. Before the Directive was adopted, Member States could only temporarily restrict or prohibit the use of GMOs on their territory in an emergency or when they had new evidence that the organism in question posed a risk to human health or the environment.

  • The EU Commission has proposed that this procedure should also be used for placing GMOs on the market. This stipulates that the final decision lies with the individual EU member states. The EU Parliament decided on October 28th that this approach was proving impractical. It could lead to a reintroduction of goods controls at the borders between countries that are for or against GMOs and endanger the EU internal market. The EU Commission's proposal was therefore rejected (with 577 to 75 votes in favor and 38 abstentions).

6.What happens now after the plenary has rejected the EU Commission's proposal?

After the plenary rejected the proposal, the EU member states now have to decide whether to continue negotiations on national bans on the placing of GMOs on the market. Otherwise the current regulation will remain in force. A majority of the EU member states can decide on EU-wide approval or a ban. If there is no majority, the EU Commission has to decide.

You can find out more news from the European Parliament here

This article was updated on October 28th after the vote by the EU Parliament.