Why are genetically modified foods good

Genetic engineering in food

A large number of consumers in Germany are still skeptical about the use of genetic engineering in agriculture. This is shown by a study by the Federal Environment Ministry from 2018. Clear labeling is required so that consumers can recognize whether genetic engineering has been used in the production of food.

Land genetically modified ingredients or constituents of such an ingredient directly in food, this must be clearly labeled throughout the EU. Nevertheless, genetic engineering can be used in the production of food without consumers knowing about it: For example, when milk comes from cows that have received genetically modified feed. Even if this milk itself does not contain any genetically modified ingredients, many consumers want to be able to see when shopping whether such feed has been used.

GMOs in food: always subject to labeling

Not only foods that are themselves a genetically modified organism (GMO) must be labeled. All ingredients, additives and vitamins in foods that come directly from a GMO are also subject to labeling.

This also applies to genetically modified microorganisms if these are added to food, such as the lactic acid bacteria in yogurt.

According to a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice, newer genetic engineering processes such as the "Crispr-Cas gene scissors" are also subject to the Genetic Engineering Ordinance. With this procedure, no foreign genes are built into the genome, but rather the existing genome is specifically modified. Food that has been produced using these new processes must therefore be labeled in the same way as other genetically modified products.

The following overview shows examples of products which must be marked:

Labeling requirement

Examples

Food itself is GMO

genetically modified soybeans, genetically modified corn

The ingredient of the food comes from GMOs

Soy flour, soy flakes, tofu and soy oil from GM soy,
Maize flour, maize grits, maize oil and maltodextrin from GM maize,
Rapeseed oil from GM rapeseed,
Cottonseed oil GM cottonseed
Sugar from genetically modified sugar beet

GMO additive

Emulsifier lecithin (E 322), mono- and diglycerides from GM soy,
Xanthan, maltitol and sorbitol from GM maize

Vitamin from GMOs

z. B. Vitamin E / tocopherol from GM soy

GMO flavor

Flavors z. B. from soy protein from GM soy

A special feature: The labeling requirement applies regardless of whether the genetic modification can be proven in the end product. The only important thing is the fact that the ingredient was originally part of a GMO.

Food surveillance controls show that the labeling regulations are largely complied with. In Germany, however, genetically modified foods that are subject to labeling are hardly to be found in stores.

Not all applications of genetic engineering are recognizable

Products from animals that have received genetically modified feed remain without a corresponding reference to genetic engineering. Additives, enzymes, vitamins and flavors that are produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms also do not have to be labeled.

So there is a difference whether lecithin comes from genetically modified soybeans or is produced by genetically modified microorganisms: Only in the first case does the genetic modification have to be specified.

The following overview lists examples of products that use genetic engineering Not must be marked:

No labeling requirement

Examples

Products made from animals, that were fed with feed or feed additives made from GMOs

Meat, sausage, fish products, milk and dairy products, eggs

Vitamins, additives, flavors

Vitamins B2, B12 and ascorbic acid produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms

Enzymes

Enzymes produced with the help of genetically modified microorganisms such as chymosin - also called rennet enzyme - for the production of cheese, amylases for the conversion of starch, for example in bread and baked goods, pectinases for the production of fruit juices

Unintentional contamination remains unmarked

With the increasing use of genetic engineering in agriculture and in food, it will become more and more difficult in the future to avoid accidental contamination with GMO material. Such unintentional contamination in food does not have to be labeled up to a threshold value of 0.9 percent per food or ingredient. However, the manufacturer must prove to the responsible authorities that he has fulfilled his duty of care to avoid contamination.

If the company cannot provide suitable evidence, labeling must also be carried out below the threshold value.

For a long time, the question of whether honey had to be labeled in which the pollen from genetically modified plants such as GM canola from Canada has been disputed. It has now been clear since 2014 that pollen is an unavoidable admixture. Accordingly, there is no labeling requirement for honey as long as the proportion of GM pollen remains below 0.9 percent.

So is marked

The following labeling regulations apply to packaged and unpackaged food:

Where and how is the labeling done?

Food

Place of identification

text

Packaged food with list of ingredients
for example toast bread

List of ingredients, behind the relevant ingredient or footnote to the list of ingredients (same font size)

"Genetically modified" or
"Made from genetically modified ..." or
"... contains from genetically modified ... produced (s / n) ..."

packaged foods without an ingredient list
for example polenta made from corn flour

label

"Genetically modified" or
"Made from genetically modified ..."

Unpackaged food
for example corn on the cob
and Food in packaging with a surface less than 10cm²
for example a praline

on the food, for example on the sign / notice or
in permanently legible form on the packaging

"Genetically modified" or
"Made from genetically modified ..."

In hotels and restaurants the information can be found on the menu or on a notice.