GM crops and foods in Britain and Europe
GM crops enter Britain mainly as animal feed. There is no commercial growing, but an experimental trial of GM wheat began in 2012 and continued in 2013.
GM crops and food can enter Europe as food, animal feed, or biofuels. GM food and feed must be approved by EU regulators and must be labelled, but meat and dairy products produced from animals fed on GM feed are not required to be labelled. In 2011, the EU decided to allow low levels of unapproved GM crops in animal feed. GM crops can be grown experimentally with approval from national regulators, or commercially if approved by the EU.
The current situation is summarised below.
For more about how GM crops and foods are regulated see the GM crops:Regulation section.
GM foods and feed
Large quantities of GM soya and maize are imported into Europe, including Britain, as animal feed. Meat and dairy products fed on GM animal feed are not labelled as GM-fed in British supermarkets. The EU has also decided to allow GM feed to include trace levels of crops which have no safety approval in Europe (i.e. are unauthorised GM crops). Campaign group GM Freeze has published a list of where to buy non-GM-fed meat, milk and eggs. Food and Water Watch Europe has also published campaign information.
Waitrose continues to require non-GM feed for poultry, eggs and lamb. In April 2013, Tesco, the Co-Op and Marks and Spencer announced they will no longer require poultry to be fed on GM-free feed, following similar decisions by Morrisons (March 2012) and Asda (September 2010). Sainsbury is keeping some product lines fed on non-GM soya, but is dropping others. There is a danger that suppliers will no longer segregate GM and non-GM soya in shipments to Britain if the major retailers do not demand it and easily available sources of non-GM meat and dairy products will be lost. However, organic and pasture-fed meat and dairy products will remain GM-free fed.
Some other countries in Europe (Germany, France, Luxembourg, Austria) have Government-sponsored voluntary labelling schemes for non-GM-fed meat, milk and eggs so that consumers can choose to buy non-GM-fed products. Organic standards also require non-GM feed. In Sweden, GM feed is no longer used at all, due to consumer pressure. In 2012, Turkey announced that GM-fed meat, milk and dairy products would be labelled.
Most British retailers do not sell other GM foods and if they stock them they must be labelled (this is also the case elsewhere in Europe). GM Freeze has produced a list of products it has found here. This includes GM cooking oil which is used in some chip shops and takeaways.
A large percentage of GM maize grown in the US is now used in industrial-scale biofuels (agrofuels) subsidised by the US Government. Biofuels do not have to be labelled as containing GM crops and it is possible that some GM biofuels are entering the EU, including Britain.
Only two GM crops have been approved for commercial growing in the EU. One is a variety of pest-resistant maize (Bt maize) produced by Monsanto (known as MON810). This is grown mainly in Spain (and in smaller quantities in some other countries) for use in animal feed. Cultivation of MON810 is banned in France, Germany, Greece, Austria, Luxemburg and Hungary.
The other GM crop approved for cultivation in the EU in 2010, is a potato known as the Amflora potato, which has been genetically modified by BASF to produce starch for use in paper-making: it was grown in small quantities in Germany and Sweden in 2011. BASF then withdrew from planting GM crops in Europe in January 2012.
No GM crops are currently grown commercially in Britain. The Bt maize that is grown in Spain is not suitable for growing here and the pests it is resistant to do not occur in Britain. Attempts to introduce herbicide-tolerant GM crops into Britain have been very controversial, because of the expected harmful effects on wildlife and the likely emergence of superweeds. None of these crops are currently approved for commercial growing.
Many experimental field trials of GM crops are conducted in Europe. In Britain, there are currently two field trials of GM potatoes (one in Norfolk and one near Leeds). A new trial of GM wheat began in March 2012, at the Rothamsted research centre in Hertfordshire.
Campaign group GM Freeze has started a campaign to stop GM wheat.
In June 2011, the UK Coalition Government outlined its policy on GM crops in its response to the Science and Technology Committee's report on bioengineering. A summary of the policy has been added to the DEFRA website (under the heading Government policy).
In 2012, the GM industry met with ministers to promote the return of GM crops to Britain. In late 2012, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Prime Minister David Cameron began to make public statements in support of GM crops.
- Consultation responses
- GeneWatch UK: Response to FSA consultation on EU harmonisation of "GM Free" labelling 26th February 2013
- GeneWatch UK: Response to BIS consultation on Agri-Tech Strategy 23rd November 2012
- Press releases
- GeneWatch UK PR: Second generation of GM crops resistant to more toxic weedkillers expose industry's diversionary PR strategy 30th August 2013
- GeneWatch UK PR: Paterson's pro-GM speech raises questions about his role in Government 20th June 2013
- GeneWatch UK PR: New study finds European GM-free farming outperforms GM farming in United States 19th June 2013
- GeneWatch UK PR: GM crops a poor choice for Britain 12th June 2013
- Joint PR: China moves to source GM-free soya supplies: why will Tesco not do the same in Britain? 23rd April 2013
- GeneWatch UK PR: Tesco misleads customers on GM chicken feed and bows to pressure from Monsanto 11th April 2013
- GeneWatch UK PR: GeneWatch warns of conflicts-of-interest in parliament on GM crops 4th January 2013
- GeneWatch UK PR: GM industry fund parliamentary group to promote return of GM crops to Britain 27th November 2012
- GeneWatch UK PR: Taxpayers' R&D spend needs more accountability: stop wasting it on PR for GM crops 23rd November 2012
- GeneWatch UK and GM Freeze Press Release: Monsanto meets ministers to push return of GM crops to Britain 25th October 2012
- GeneWatch PR: GeneWatch welcomes MPs' report on sustainable food and MEP's decision to halt patents on conventionally-bred plants 13th May 2012
- Press articles
- The Pig Site: Increasing Government Support for UK Agriculture (5th December 2013)
- Market Oracle: Genetically Modified Politicians Battle to Persuade the Public to Accept GM Food (29th November 2013)
- The Ecologist: Deformities, sickness and livestock deaths: the real cost of GM animal feed? (28th November 2013)
- Euronews: French researcher claims GM food lobbyists pulled study from journal (28th November 2013)
- The Journal: GM maize crop may get EU green light (27th November 2013)
- Farming UK: First containerised Indian Non-GM Soymeal available to UK feed sector (8th November 2013) (
- Science: After 12-Year Limbo, New GM Maize May Hit Europe's Fields (7th November 2012)
- Deutsche Welle: New breed of GM corn moves forward in EU (6th November 2013)
- Farming Online: Commission set to approve new GM maize variety (1st November 2013)
- Telegraph: Migrant farm labourers 'like a scene from a Van Gogh painting' (1st November 2013)
- Daily Mail: GM controversy is over, minister claims, and the public only care about the cost of food (25th October 2013)
- The House Magazine: Owen Paterson: Food Fighter (25th October 2013)
- The Guardian: Owen Paterson: the minister for GM hype (24th October 2013)
- The Guardian: Zac Goldsmith attacks Owen Paterson for calling anti-GM campaigners wicked (24th October 2013)
- Daily Mail: Scientists issue safety warning over GM food as Government pushes for public acceptance of controversial crop (21st October 2013)
- The Guardian: Owen Paterson, 'wickedness' and the fairy dust of science (15th October 2013)
- The Independent: Opponents of GM crops are 'wicked', says Environment Secretary Owen Paterson (13th October 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: Monsanto begins GM seeds retreat in EU (3rd September 2013)
- The Grocer: Sainsbury's and The Co-operative Group have extended their GM-free warning to premium pork lines (1st September 2013)
- Sustainable Pulse: Monsanto officially starts retreat from Europe (27th August 2013)
- Daily Mail: On sale in Tesco, GM cereal that makes children hyperactive: U.S. import of Lucky Charms contain artificial colours that UK watchdog urges manufacturers to avoid (24th August 2013)
Farmers Weekly: Spanish GM maize area increases by 20 percent (16th August 2013)
Note: figures are based on unverified company seed sales.
- AP: Divisive debate on genetically modified foods a battleground in US-Europe trade talks (2nd August 2013)
- France 24: Hollande vows to uphold ban on Monsanto GM corn (3rd August 2013)
- Farmers Guardian: Court overturns French ban on Monsanto GM maize (1st August 2013)
- Roll Call: GMO Soybeans Are Speed Bump in EU Trade Deal (26th July 2013)
- Farming UK: Farm tech strategy 'may create mega-farm dominated countryside' (23rd July 2013)
- The Scottish Farmer: Monsanto's GM retreat (23rd July 2013)
- Farming UK: Government to invest GBP160m in farming technology (22nd July 2013)
- The Telegraph: Food industry boost set to unite farmers and retailers (22nd July 2013)
- The Grocer: UK agriculture gets GBP160m to cultivate 'world-beating products' (22nd July 2013)
- Financial Times: Seeds of doubt: Europe is right to be cautious over GM crops (21st July 2013)
- Daily Mail: Frankenstein food firm 'quits' Europe: U.S. giant surrenders in face of public suspicion over its pesticide-resistant GM crops (18th July 2013)
Le Monde: Il n'y a plus d'experimentation d'OGM en plein champ en France (17th July 2013)
Reports that the latest trial of a GM crop in France (GM poplars) has been stopped.
- Reuters: Monsanto to pull E.U. approval requests (17th July 2013)
- FT: Monsanto to drop applications to grow GM crops in EU (17th July 2013)
- The Telegraph: Major GM company withdraws applications for new crops in Europe (17th July 2013)
- AgProfessional: Italy moves to ban growing of genetically modified maize type (16th July 2013)
- The Scottish Farmer: Supermarket GM feed blast (12th July 2013)
- AgProfessional: Britain divided over use of GM crops (9th July 2013)
- The Independent: Tory MP says pro-GM Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is 'industry puppet' (3rd July 2013)
- Farming UK: 61 percent of British farmers happy to grow GM crops but only 21 percent of consumers are in favour of GM food (3rd July 2013)
- The Ecologist: GM Manifesto: Not just a question of science (1st July 2013)
- Epoch Times: GMOs in Italian Artisan Foods: Traditions Impacted by Biotech? (30th June 2013)
- The Ecologist: UK Environment Secretary suffering from GM delusion (27th June 2013)
- Farming UK: Tesco accused of 'breaking promises' on GM feed (26th June 2013)
- Just Food: UK: WhiteWave's Alpro introduces non-GM labelling mark (25th June 2013)
- The Guardian: GM crops: the genetic colonialists (24th June 2013)
- Gazetta del Sud: Italian minister wants ban on GMOs (24th June 2013)
- ABC: Study: no yield advantage with GM crops (24th June 2013)
- The Guardian: GM crops won't help African farmers (24th June 2013)
- AllAboutFeed: UK govt will help GM companies remove barriers (24th June 2013)
- The Telegraph: Bitter taste of GM humble pie (22nd June 2013)
- The Telegraph: GM foods kept off the menu at Westminster (21st June 2013)
- The Guardian: The GM slow motion train wreck (21st June 2013)
- Public Service Europe: Non-GM farming in Europe 'outperforms' GM farming in US (21st June 2013)
- Channel 4 Fact Check: Has the environment minister struck gold on GM? (20th June 2013)
- FT: Lib Dems attack Owen Paterson as 'cheerleading for GM industry' (20th June 2013)
- The Information Daily: Environmental Secretary's GM crop push simply PR for industry (20th June 2013)
- The Guardian: Owen Paterson's cheerleading for GM crops to tackle hunger rings hollow (20th June 2013)
- Information Daily: Environmental Secretary's GM crop push simply PR for industry (20th June 2013)
- The Telegraph: David Cameron: 'It is time to look again at GM food' (17th June 2013)
- Daily Mail: Now Cameron backs genetically modified crops to prove Britain is pro-science (14th June 2013)
- Daily Mail: GM diet 'can lead to disease in pigs': Animals develop inflamed stomachs and other conditions when fed with 'Frankenstein foods' (13th June 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: Survey results: What farmers really think about GM (12th June 2013)
- The Guardian: Should restrictions on GM crops be relaxed? (12th June 2013)
- Daily Mail: Ease curbs on GM food, says Willetts: Science minister says crops could be used to feed the world (11th June 2013)
- The Independent: The agricultural revolution - UK pushes Europe to embrace GM crops (11th June 2013)
- The Grocer: GM DNA can be detected in foods from livestock (9th June 2013)
- Investigative Reporting Denmark: GMO lose Europe - victory for environmental organisations (29th May 2013)
- The Observer: M and S, Co-op and Sainsbury's say chickens will be fed on GM soya (12th May 2013)
- AllAboutFeed: EU retailers pledge support for Brazilian non-GMO soy (8th May 2013)
- Politics.co.uk: Comment: The government's backing of GM foods is short-sighted and wrong (25th April 2013)
- The Independent: Genetically modified crops needed to 'feed the world,' says Government's chief scientific advisor Mark Walport
- The Guardian: Consumers should have the right to know if they are eating GM food (19th April 2013)
- Daily Mail: Let farms grow GM food, says PM's personal scientific adviser: Top adviser backs calls to relax rules on crops (18th April 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: Supermarkets misled on GM soya claims (17th April 2013)
- Farming Online: Brazilian exporters 'puzzled' by UK supermarket GM claims (16th April 2013)
- The Grocer: Co-op ditches guarantee of non-GM feed for its poultry (12th April 2013)
- The Scottish Farmer: GM maize move leaves UK 'cold' (12th April 2013)
- The Grocer: Consumers don't trust supermarkets on GM food, poll finds (12th April 2013)
- The Grocer: Tesco drops resistance to GM feed for poultry (12th April 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: REACTION: Tesco drops non-GM for poultry (12th April 2013)
- EUbusiness: Italy asks EU to halt GM maize cultivation (4th April 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: Sainsbury's to fund broiler feed research (1st April 2013)
- Independent Daily Express: Spain Leads EU in GM Crops, but No One Knows Where They Are (27th March 2013)
- The Grocer: Stop the Crop campaign takes aim at GM crops in Europe (19th March 2013)
- Farming UK: Feed is contributing to climate change, says crop expert (18th March 2013)
- Daily Mail: Time for Europe to let British farmers grow GM food, says environment minister (11th March 2013)
- FT: UK set for GM food push in Europe (8th March 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: FARMER FOCUS: going alone on GMs is worrying (3rd March 2013)
- The Grocer: Retailers urged not to relax rules on non-GM feed (21st February 2013)
- Daily Mail: Farmers push to lift supermarkets' ban on GM-fed hens as they argue conventional feeds are too expensive (18th February 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: Rothamsted plans GM winter wheat field trial (7th February 2013)
- Farming UK: Egg producers call on major retailers to abandon Non-GM rule (1st February 2013)
- Europolitics: BASF drops EU potato bid (30th January 2013)
- The Grocer: Stop horse play with food (and that includes GM) (26th January 2013)
- Food Navigator: EU health commissioner to prioritise talks on GM crop bans (24th January 2013)
- Nasdaq: Europeans Should Reconsider Suspicion of GM Crops - Lobby Group (22nd January 2013)
- Metro: GM food: A better way of farming or a health risk? (22nd January 2013)
- Farmers Weekly: GMs threaten our green and pleasant land (20th January 2013)
- Mother Jones: Enviro Crusader Turns Pro-GMO, Anti-Organic - And Anti-Logic (16th January 2013)
The Telegraph: Egg prices up 40 per cent (15th January 2013)
Egg prices have rocketed by 40 per cent over the past year as the cost of non genetically modified feed soars and new welfare rules come in, a new report shows.
- Permaculture.co.uk: Polish Farmers Protest Sale of Land for GM Crops (15th January 2013)
- Daily Mail: Two in three shoppers demand GM product labels in embarrassing consumer backlash for government against 'Frankenstein foods' (9th January 2013)
- The Telegraph: GM food should be labelled by supermarkets - FSA (9th January 2013)
- The Grocer: FSA study sees consumer demand for GM feed labelling (9th January 2013)
- The Guardian: UK government's enthusiasm for GM not matched in developing nations (4th January 2013)
- The Guardian: Bad weather prompting more British farmers to favour GM use (4th January 2013)
- The Telegraph: Environment Secretary Owen Paterson tells farmers to push GM (3rd January 2013)
- Daily Mail: Ministers launch PR drive to shake off 'Frankenstein food' image of GM crops (3rd January 2013)
- The Guardian: GM food: British public 'should be persuaded of the benefits' (3rd January 2012)
- The Warsaw Voice: Poland imposes farming bans on GM maize, potatoes (3rd January 2013)
- The Telegraph: Zac Goldsmith attacks 'deceitful' David Cameron (18th December 2012)
- Daily Mail: 'Frankenstein food' a good thing? It's all great GM lies (17th December 2012)
- The Telegraph: The seeds of another GM row are sown (14th December 2012)
Reuters: U.S. trade deal could be a lot for Europe to swallow (11th December 2012)
The US wants to weaken EU regulations on GM crops and foods as part of a new trade deal.
- The Telegraph: Speed up roll-out of GM crops, says Downing Street (10th December 2012)
- EurActiv: Without Dalli, GMO foes hope for tougher EU policy (12th November 2012)
Farmers Weekly: Animal welfare concerns reduce during recession (6th November 2012)
Reports a Which? survey showing rising public concern over GM foods.
- The Scottish Farmer: GM charm campaign? (1st November 2012)
- Farmers Guardian: Row erupts over GM 'agenda setting' claims (1st November 2012)
- Public Service Europe: Has a deal been done to bring GM crops to Europe? (25th October 2012)
- The Scottish Farmer: Unlock the science! (18th October 2012)
- The Scientist: A Win for GM Crops (10th September 2012)
- The Local: WWF: We're all eating GM-based meat (21st August 2012)
- Public Service Europe: The unsuitable EU authorisation process for GM (20th July 2012)
- MSN News: The big answer: GM crops should not be grown in Britain (11th July 2012)
BBC: Time for a rethink on GM crops?
Industry lobbying from the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) which represents Monsanto and other GM companies.
- Daily Mail: In hot water, MP fan of Frankenstein food who got it wrong on M&S broccoli by saying it was genetically modified (26th June 2012)
- The Telegraph: David Willetts: more focus needed on agricultural research, including GM (26th June 2012)
- Financial Times: Research calls stir 'Frankenfood' debate (25th June 2012)
- BBC: UK bioscience industry gets GBP250m cash boost from government (24th May 2012)
- The Guardian: GM crops: protesters go back to the battlefields (22nd May 2012)
- BakeryInfo: First UK GM wheat trial vandalised (22nd May 2012)
- The Guardian: French ban of Monsanto GM maize rejected by EU (22nd May 2012)
- New York Times: An Entrepreneur Bankrolls a Genetically Engineered Salmon (21st May 2012)
- Farmers Weekly: Number of GM field trials in Europe in decline (21st May 2012)
- GMO Safety: Plant research in Europe: Few new GM plants (18th May 2012)
- Public Service Europe: The dangers of GM - Europe must learn the lessons from America (14th May 2012)
- Channel 4 News: Government must act to secure a sustainable food supply (13th May 2012)
- The Grocer: Morrisons' GM Muck Up (5th May 2012)
- Wales Online: Welsh farmer leads anti-GM crop protest against pioneering wheat crop experiment (3rd May 2012)
- Farmers Weekly: GM wheat trial begins amid high security (28th March 2012)
- The Scottish Farmer: Monsanto's GM maize retreat (26th January 2012)
- EurActiv: Disgruntled GMO firms start pulling out of EU market (26th January 2012)
- European Voice: BASF to end GM crop production for the EU (16th January 2012)
- The Guardian: Tories and Labour renew backing for GM food crops (5th January 2012)
- Farmers Weekly: GM crops: A new way forward (29th December 2011)
- External links
- European Commission: GMO: Commission asks Council to agree on its proposal to grant Member States more subsidiarity on cultivation (6th November 2013)
- EC: Questions and Answers on EU's policies on cultivation and imports of GMOs (6th November 2013)
- Genok: Assessments of techical dossiers submitted for EU approvals
- GMFreeze: The Paterson Speech on GM - Taking it up with your MP (August 2013)
- BIS and Defra: GBP160 million technology boost for UK agricultural industries (22nd July 2013)
- EU to vote on 'toxic mix maize' SmartStax in July (1st July 2013)
- Hillbeck et al. (2013) Farmers' choice of seeds in four EU countries under different levels of GM crop adoption
- Conservative Home: Heresy of the week: Owen Paterson is wrong about GM crops (28th June 2013)
- FoI request: Meeting between Prof Pollock and Defra Minister Lord de Mauley 20th June 2013
- Defra: Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP speech to Rothamsted Research (20th June 2013)
- Heinemann et al. (2013) Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest
- Testbiotech Overview: Genetically engineered plants soon to be authorised for cultivation in the EU (March 2013)
- SpinWatch: The Repentant Environmentalist: Part 2 (27th February 2013)
- GM Watch: Lynas backs down and apologises to the Soil Association (5th February 2013)
- SpinWatch: The Repentant Environmentalist: Part 1 (30th January 2013)
- Union of Concerned Scientists: Science, Dogma and Mark Lynas (11th January 2013)
- Food First: Professor John Vandermeer challenges environmentalist Mark Lynas on GMOs (8th January 2013)
- GM-free Cymru: The Lynas School of pseudo-scientific environmentalism (6th January 2013)
CEE BankWatch Press Release: Monsanto Should Not Expand Relying on Public Money (19th November 2012)
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has provisionally approved a 40 million US dollars financial guarantee to cover Monsanto in case farming companies cannot pay for seeds or agrochemical products they committed to buy from the corporation. The support is to be offered by the EBRD for contracts made by Monsanto with medium and large farmers and distributors in Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
- GM Freeze: UK GM field trials
BIS: Shaping a UK agri-tech strategy: call for evidence (11th October 2012)
Government consultation: deadline 22nd November 2012.
ABC: Going for Growth (June 2012)
Report by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), an industry body which represents Monsanto and other GM companies, seeking more public subsidy for GM crops research in Britain.
TestBiotech: PlantGeneRisk Database on the authorisation of genetically engineered plants in the European Union
Database featuring independent scrutiny of EFSA recommendations to authorise GM crops in the EU.
European Commission: GM Food and Feed
A list of all GM food and feed allowed on the EU market, including crops approved for import and/or for cultivation.
European Commission Joint Research Centre: GMO Register
A register of all experimental and commercial releases of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the EU.
Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA): Genetic Modification (GM)
Provides links to information on GM crops and food in the UK, including field trial sites, legislation, and government policy.