Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and new genetic engineering techniques

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are the result of genetic engineering, where the intentional insertion or deletion of genes and alteration of genetic information (DNA) takes place in a laboratory. GMOs are associated with unsustainable farm practices and the industrial farming model. The use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in food and farming promote single varieties with a high degree of uniformity, as well as posing a risk to the environment, human and animal health, farmers’ rights for seed and farmers’ independence. The potential for contamination threatens the GMO-free food chain, and consequently the economic wellbeing of farmers and producers.

All organic regulations around the world prohibit the use of GMOs in organic products, as they are in stark contrast to the philosophy of organic farming. In the European Union, the current organic regulation (Regulation 834/2007, article 4), and the new one (Regulation 848/2018, article 5) clearly state that organic agriculture is GMO-free by definition.

The organic movement and IFOAM EU also strongly opposes GMO use and demands that all GMO contamination of non-GMO materials be prevented by the GMO producer in accordance with the polluter pays principle.

IFOAM EU calls for a moratorium on the cultivation of GMOs in its "Malta declaration" (March 2010) and actively works for GMO-free agriculture in Europe (see Keeping GMOs out of Organic).

Since the adoption of the European GMOs regulation (1990 modified in 2001), new techniques of genetic modification were developed. Their legal status is in the middle of a fierce debate at European and international level.
In 2015, IFOAM EU adopted a position on new genetic engineering techniques. IFOAM EU considers the new genetic engineering techniques as techniques of genetic modification that lead to GMOs according to the existing EU legal definition (Dir. 2001/18/EC and Reg.1829/2003).

For the organic sector it is crucial that these techniques that engineer living organisms through technical, chemical or biotechnological intervention in the cell and/or nucleus are subjected to risk assessment and if authorized, should be subject to mandatory traceability and labelling requirements that apply to other GMOs (Reg. 1829/2003 and 1830/2003).
In 2017, IFOAM Organic International adopted a similar position.

On the 25th of July, the European Court of Justice confirmed that new techniques of genetic modification are GMO and must be regulated as such.

Learn more about the work of IFOAM EU on GMOs: here