GM labelling

Last updated:
30 January 2013
Man reading a product label in a supermarket
The Agency supports consumer choice. We recognise that some people will want to choose not to buy or eat genetically modified (GM) foods, however carefully they have been assessed for safety.

Will the label tell me if food is GM?

In the EU, if a food contains or consists of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or contains ingredients produced from GMOs, this must be indicated on the label. For GM products sold 'loose', information must be displayed immediately next to the food to indicate that it is GM.

On 18 April 2004, new rules for GM labelling came into force in all EU Member States.

The GM Food and Feed Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 lays down rules to cover all GM food and animal feed, regardless of the presence of any GM material in the final product.

This means products such as flour, oils and glucose syrups have to be labelled as GM if they are from a GM source.

Products produced with GM technology (cheese produced with GM enzymes, for example) do not have to be labelled.

Products such as meat, milk and eggs from animals fed on GM animal feed also do not need to be labelled. Details on the labelling rules can be found on the table below.

Any intentional use of GM ingredients at any level must be labelled. However, the Food and Feed Regulation provides for a threshold for the adventitious, or accidental, presence of GM material in non-GM food or feed sources. This threshold is set at 0.9% and only applies to GMOs that have an EU authorisation. The temporary threshold of 0.5% for the presence of GM material not yet authorised, but that had a favourable assessment from an EU scientific committee, expired in April 2007. This means that such unauthorised GM material cannot be present at any level.

Examples of labelling requirements under EC Regulation No. 1829/2003 for authorised GMOs (updated April 2008)

Examples of labelling requirements under EC Regulation No. 1829/2003 for authorised GMOs (updated April 2008)
GMO type Hypothetical examples Labelling required?
GM plant Chicory Yes
GM seed Maize seeds Yes
GM food Maize, soybean, tomato Yes
Food produced from GMOs Maize flour, highly refined soya oil, glucose syrup from maize starch Yes
Food from animals fed GM animal feed Meat, milk, eggs No
Food produced with help from a GM enzyme Cheese, bakery products produced with the help of amylase No
Food additive/flavouring produced from GMOs Highly filtered lecithin extracted from GM soybeans used in chocolate Yes
Feed additive produced from a GMO Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) No
GMM used as a food ingredient Yeast extract Yes
Alcoholic beverages which contain a GM ingredient Wine with GM grapes Yes
Products containing GM enzymes where the enzyme is acting as an additive or performing a technical function   Yes
GM feed Maize Yes
Feed produced from a GMO Corn gluten feed, soybean meal Yes
Food containing GM ingredients that are sold in catering establishments   Yes (the FSA's legal view is that labelling is required across EU Member States under EC Regulation 1829/2003).

GM – genetically modified
GMM – genetically modified micro-organism

Food or feed produced by a fermentation process using a GMM that is kept under contained conditions and is not present in the final product does not fall within the scope of this regulation. Such food and feed is considered to have been produced with the GMM, rather than from the GMM.

This agreement was reached at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health – Section on Genetically Modified Food and Feed and Environmental Risk meeting of 24 September 2004. The letter sent to stakeholders on this issue on 4 January 2005 can be found at the link below.

This was confirmed in the Commission's review of the regulations published in October 2006.

Article 48 of the GM Food and Feed Regulation required the Commission to forward to the European Parliament and the Council a report on the implementation of this measure. In order to prepare this report, the Commission circulated a questionnaire to member states which had the following objectives:

  • to describe the experiences member states have had in implementing the regulation
  • to identify any difficulties which may have arisen in implementing the regulation
  • to make recommendations on strengthening the consistency and efficiency of the regulation, if required

Responses from the FSA and stakeholders to this questionnaire are attached below as the 'European Commission GM questionnaire responses' document.

The Commission's report was published on 25 October 2006 and can be found on the Commission website via the link below.

Short consultation: EU harmonisation of 'GM-free' labelling

Following the publication of FSA research into public attitudes on GM free labelling, the FSA is seeking stakeholder views on the EU harmonisation of GM-free labelling in a short consultation. More information about the consultation, which ends Friday 1 March 2013, can be found in the letter via the link toward the end of this page.

FSA research into public attitudes on GM free labelling can be found on the right of this page.