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Food Safety

Genetically Modified Organisms

Food and feed generally originates from plants and animals grown and bred by humans for several thousand years. Over time, those plants and animals with the most desirable characteristics were chosen for breeding the next generations of food and feed. This was, for example, the case for plants with an increased resistance to environmental pressures such as diseases or with an increased yield.

These desirable characteristics appeared through naturally occurring variations in the genetic make-up of those plants and animals. In recent times, it has become possible to modify the genetic make-up of living cells and organisms using techniques of modern biotechnology called gene technology.

The genetic material is modified artificially to give it a new property (e.g. a plant's resistance to a disease, insect or drought, a plant's tolerance to a herbicide, improving a food's quality or nutritional value, increased yield).

Such organisms are called "genetically modified organisms" (GMOs). Food and feed which contain or consist of such GMOs, or are produced from GMOs, are called "genetically modified (GM) food or feed".

New Techniques in Biotechnology

The public consultation for the initiative on plants obtained by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis was published was published on Friday, 29 April 2022 and remained open for a period of 12 weeks until Friday, 22 July 2022. More information is available here.

The roadmap (inception impact assessment) for the initiative on plants obtained by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis has been published. The feedback period has now ended.

The European Commission follows the continuous progress in modern biotechnology, to consider how the EU can benefit from innovation in the food and agricultural sector while maintaining high safety standards. In the last decade, a variety of new techniques  have been developed, based on advances in biotechnology.

In November 2019, the Council requested the European Commission to provide a study on new genomic techniques (NGTs). The study was published on 29 April 2021.

The Council also asked the Commission, if appropriate in view of the outcomes of the study, to submit a proposal or otherwise to inform the Council on other measures required as a follow-up to the study.

Based on the outcome of the study, the Commission has initiated a policy action on plants produced by targeted mutagenesis and cisgenesis, which will involve an impact assessment including a public consultation.

The initiative aims for an appropriate regulatory oversight for the concerned plant products, ensuring a high level of protection of human and animal health and the environment, and enabling innovation and the contribution of safe new genomic techniques to the objectives of the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy.

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