European network set up to examine the labelling obligation for genetically modified ingredients in foods

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a founding member of a European network of laboratories which will be responsible, in future, for the development and evaluation of detection methods for genetically modified ingredients in foods. On 4 December 2002 the formation agreement was signed in Brussels. Laboratories from all European Member States are members of this network.

The staff of BfR (up to 31 October BgVV) already began developing detection methods for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in 1995. The first official standard method in this sector in the world was developed and tested in 1997 by a working group coordinated by this Institute. Since then, seven methods for identifying ingredients of this kind have been taken over into the official collection of detection methods. A complete list of the official standard methods available in Germany can be accessed on the BfR homepage (

The highly sensitive detection methods are based on state-of-the-art molecular biology technology by means of which the smallest amounts of genetic material introduced into the plants can be tracked down. A few DNA molecules are all that's needed for detection. In order to monitor the limit value of 1% introduced in 2000 for foods containing ingredients from genetically modified maize and soya plants, detection methods were established within BfR which permit the quantitative determination of genetically modified DNA in foods.

The compromise reached last week in the EU Council of Agricultural Ministers, which involves labelling all foods and feedstuffs produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from a threshold value of 0.9% upwards, paves the way for new comprehensive regulations concerning the placing on the market and the labelling of such products. The network now set up on the European level guarantees that compliance with the future labelling provisions can be monitored in a uniform manner throughout Europe.

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