Frequently asked questions about genetically modified products

1. How do I know if a food or feed contains a genetically modified (gm) ingredient?

– A genetically modified food cannot be recognised as such by appearance. However, the labelling will provide information as to whether or not the food or feed contains genetically modified ingredients. The words 'genetically modified' or 'produced from genetically modified soya beans', for example, must appear in the list of ingredients immediately following the genetically modified ingredient.

2. Are there any exceptions to the labelling requirements concerning genetically modifies food or feed?

– The labelling requirement does not apply to fermentation products manufactured using genetically modified microbes where no genetically modified microbes are present in the final product. Examples of such products are vitamins and additives.

3. May a food or feed be labelled as "gm free" if the product concerned does not contain any genetically modified ingredients?

– According to law, genetically modified ingredients must always be indicated in the labelling. The law does not explicitly prohibit the use of voluntary labelling stating that gene technology has not been utilised in the production of the food or feed concerned, or that the product does not contain any genetically modified ingredients. Evira has drawn up a guideline for the use of the voluntary "produced without gene technology" labelling in food and feed. The guideline is available at the Evira website.

4. Which genetically modified foods and feeds are on the market in Finland?

– According to the information available to Evira, there are only few foodstuffs that contain genetically modified ingredients on the market in Finland. The gm feed ingredient most commonly used in the manufacturing of feeds is genetically modified soy. Genetically modified foods and feeds can be recognised as such from their labelling.

5. Are genetically modified foods and feeds dangerous to health?

– Genetically modified foods and feeds may not be placed on the market if they have not been authorised in the EU. All genetically modified material is subject to a strict approval procedure in the EU, which includes a statement prepared by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the safety of the genetically modified product. Approved genetically modified material does not have any adverse effects on human, animal or environmental health.


6. Does "modified starch" in the list of ingredients mean genetically modified starch?

– No. Modified starch is chemically, physically or enzymatically treated and has nothing to do with genetic modification. Modified starch is prepared from edible starch by means of one or several chemical treatments. More information about modified starch is available on the Evira website at:
https://www.evira.fi/elintarvikkeet/tietoa-elintarvikkeista/koostumus/elintarvikeparanteet/lisaaineet/tietoa-yksittaisista-aineista/muunneltu-tarkkelys/ (in Finnish)

7. If a store sells soy flour that bears no indication of genetic modification, is it likely to contain genetically modified soy?

– Genetically modified ingredients must always be stated on the package labelling if their level exceeds 0.9%. If there is no indication of genetic modification, this means that no genetically modified ingredients have been used in the product.

8. Does genetically modified food contain fewer vitamins and other nutrients than conventionally produced food?

– No. Genetically modified food contains the same nutrients as similar conventional products. The nutritional composition of genetically modified plant species is carefully examined before the species are accepted in the EU.

9. Does genetically modified food cause cancer and deformities?

– Approved genetically modified material does not have any adverse effects on human, animal or environmental health. Furthermore, it has been noted that genetically modified corn species that withstand pest insects contain less mycotoxins than traditional corn species.

10. Which genetically modifies foods or feeds have been authorised for the EU market?

– Starting from 1996, a number of genetically modified foods and feeds (corn, soy, rape, cotton, sugar beet, potato) have been authorised for the EU market. On the other hand, only two genetically modified corn species and one potato species have been authorised for cultivation in the EU (as at February 2011). Evira's website includes a list of genetically modified foods and feeds authorised in the EU:
https://www.evira.fi/yhteiset/muuntogeeniset-tuotteet/tuotteiden-hyvaksynta/hyvaksytyt-tuotteet/ (in Finnish)

11. How are genetically modified foods and feeds controlled in Finland?

– Genetically modified foods and feeds are not subject to any advance control. The control of genetically modified foods and feeds is part of the regular food and feed control. The practical side of food control is carried out by municipal food control authorities and Evira's inspection veterinarians. Evira is responsible for the control of genetically modified feeds and agricultural seeds. Genetically modified foods are also controlled by the Finnish Customs. For example, the Customs analyses all rice products originating from China and approx. 150–200 feedstuffs on a spot-check basis for potential genetic modification.

12. Is there an indication on the packaging if the animal concerned has been fed with genetically modified feed?

– No. The labelling requirements imposed by legislation on genetically modified foodstuffs do not extend to foodstuffs obtained from animals. Even if an animal has been fed with genetically modified feed, the use of genetically modified feed need not be indicated on the package labelling of the meat obtained from such animal or on the labelling of the meat products prepared of it.

13. Is ham genetically modified if it originates from a pig that has been fed with gm feed?

– No. Eating genetically modified feed does make the pig or its meat genetically modified. All of the genes contained in the feed are broken down in the animal's metabolism, including any transferred genes.

14. Is there any genetically modified meat placed on the market?

– Genetically modified food-producing animals have not been authorised in the EU, so there is no gm meat placed on the EU food market.

15. Where can I obtain more information about genetically modified foods and feeds?

More information about genetically modified foods and feeds can be found, for example, from Evira's website and on the Commission website:

https://www.evira.fi/yhteiset/muuntogeeniset-tuotteet/ (in Finnish)
http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/gmo_en

Other useful websites:

http://www.btnk.fi/en/index.html
http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/home/ 
http://www.cera-gmc.org/GMCropDatabase