Food safety and quality
| share
 > Food > A-Z index
 

Biotechnology (GM food)

Current activities

FAO Technical Consultation on Low Levels of GM crops in international food and feed trade (20-21 March 2014): Several countries have requested FAO to facilitate international dialogue on the issue of trade disruptions involving low levels of GM crops in international food and feed trade. Such an initial dialogue would review the extent and pattern of trade disruptions based on reporting from member countries and would explore likely trends. The Technical Consultation aims at facilitating a common understanding of the issue. The meeting is not intended to reach policy agreements. [read more]

FAO GM Foods Platform (2013): A new international Platform has been developed to share information on safety assessment of foods derived from recombinant-DNA plants authorized in accordance with the Codex Plant Guideline, entitled “Guideline for the conduct of food safety assessment of foods derived from recombinant-DNA plants (CAC/GL 45-2003, annex III adopted in 2008) ". This Platform also facilitates the effective utilization of food safety assessment in situations of Low Level Presence (LLP) of r-DNA plant materials in food. Please note that FAO GM Foods Platform has been officially launched in July 2013 and accessible at http://fao.org/gm-platform. The database will gradually expand as Member countries upload their information over the coming weeks and months. The final report of the launching event (side event to the 36th Codex Alimentarius Commission) is available in English [ download ]. In March 2014, Food Safety at FAO Highlight was published on the topic of FAO GM Foods Platform and it is available in English [ download ].

General information

The application of modern biotechnology to food and food production (GM food) presents new opportunities and potential benefits, as well as challenges in ensuring consumer protection. Recent developments have posed concerns, both real and perceived, about the safety of these technologies.

Member Countries, especially developing ones, look to FAO to provide sound and unbiased advice on the safety of GM food, and AGNS, in collaboration with international bodies such as Codex, has been involved in a wide range of biotechnology related issues, including:

  • Science-based safety evaluation and risk assessment systems to objectively determine the benefits and risks of GM food
  • Recommendations for the labelling of foods obtained through biotechnology
  • Assessing nutritional aspects of food derived from modern biotechnology
  • Detection of protein and/or DNA in GM food

In 1999 the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), established an Ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology to consider the health and nutritional implications of such food. It is tasked with developing standards, guidelines or recommendations, as appropriate, for foods derived from biotechnology or traits introduced into foods by biotechnology. The Task Force was dissolved by the 31st Session of the Commission (2008).

The scientific basis for the work of Task Force was provided by FAO and WHO through a series of scientific expert consultations on the safety and nutritional aspects of GM food. These expert consultations, while addressing issues which are closely related to the work of the Task Force, were completely independent from the inter-governmental negotiation process, and treated the subject from a purely scientific perspective.

FAO/WHO Expert Consultations

FAO and WHO have embarked on an initiative to organize a series of scientific expert Consultations to provide scientific and technical advice to their Member States. The scientific advice derived from the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultations can be used by the Member States of FAO and WHO directly. It also serves as the scientific foundation for the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in their deliberation on risk analysis principles and safety assessment guidelines for foods derived from biotechnology.

  • FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on the Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant-DNA Animals, 26 February - 2 March 2007, Geneva [full report: EN | SP | FR ]
  • Safety assessment of foods derived from genetically modified animals, including fish, a joint FAO/WHO expert consultation on food derived from biotechnology, Rome, Italy, 17 - 21 November 2003 [ exective summary (EN) | full report (EN) ]
  • Safety assessment of foods derived from genetically modified microorganisms, a joint FAO/WHO expert consultation on foods derived from biotechnology, Geneva, Switzerland, 24 to 28 September 2001 [ full report (EN)]
  • Allergenicity of genetically modified foods, a joint FAO/WHO consultation on foods derived from biotechnology, Rome, Italy, 22-25 January 2001 [ full report (EN) ]
  • Safety aspects of genetically modified foods of plant origin, a joint FAO/WHO consultation on foods derived from biotechnology, Geneva, Switzerland 29 May - 2 June 2000 [full report: EN | SP | FR ]