Laboratory and Industrial Use

Laboratory and Industrial Use section

All genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are first developed in laboratories and some are designed never to be released into the wider environment. Others are used in industrial processing. Because they are not deliberately released into the environment, they are said to be 'contained'. The most recent controversy about the creation of GM organisms in labs is so-called 'synthetic biology' where scientists have begun to create or recreate microorganisms from scratch - by joining pieces of DNA together. GeneWatch is working for more societal debate about whether or not this should be allowed and under what conditions. The more common contained uses of GMOs include:

  • In research to understand how animals, plants and microorganisms function and to understand and develop treatments for disease;
  • In product development of GM crops, animals or bacteria;
  • In factories using GM bacteria and yeasts to produce :
    •  industrial enzymes, such as those used in detergents;
    • enzymes for food manufacture, such as renin for cheese production;
    • drugs, such as insulin.

In Europe, all laboratory and factory uses of GMOs are regulated by the EU Contained Use Directive. Read more about:

In 2013, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) plans to launch a consultation on the contained use regulations. Industry has been lobbying to create a loophole to allow GM micro-organisms, synthetic biology products and GM fish and insects to be released into the environment on an industrial scale under the Constained Use regulations. Read more here.


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