Genetic modification of animals

The Commission has received a report and policy recommendations from the Pegasus project on the genetic modification of animals. The European Food Safety Authority has adopted a scientific opinion giving guidance on the risk assessment of food and feed from genetically modified (GM) animals and on the animal health and welfare aspects. Therefore, the Commission will be aware that there are considerable animal welfare and ethical concerns over the genetic modification of animals. On the other side of the Atlantic, the US authorities are likely shortly to make a decision as to whether to permit GM-farmed salmon to enter the human food chain. Accordingly, the EU needs to develop its own policy on the development and use of GM animals, as a matter of some urgency.


E-005290-13 Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

The European Union has set in law a strict procedure for risk assessment and authorisation of GMOs, which is applicable to the deliberate release of GM animals in the environment, or for food and feed originating from GM animals. Furthermore, the GMO legislation ensures that consumers are comprehensively informed via specific labelling on the GM origin of a food or feed product, allowing them to make an informed purchasing choice.

There are currently no applications for the placing on the market of GM animals or products derived from GM animals. However, the Commission is aware that research is carried out in this field. In order to prepare for possible applications for authorisation, the Commission requested EFSA to develop guidance on the abovementioned aspects as well as on animal welfare. The EFSA's guidance documents on the environmental, human and animal health risk assessment for GM animals and derived food and feed from GM animals were published in January 2012 and address extensively the related GM animal health and welfare considerations at trials, breeding and usage stages(1). The guidance is clear that it needs to be shown by the applicant that both the intended and unintended effects of the genetic modification do not jeopardise the health and welfare of the GM animal. Breeding and use of GM animals would also have to comply with the minimum standards set by the EC law for the protection of animals bred and kept for farming purpose(2), as well as with the EU Directives on welfare of calves(3), pigs(4) and laying hens(5).

The Commission is currently in the process of reviewing the final report of the project PEGASUS and will give the recommendations contained within the report their full consideration.

(1) Section 3.9;
(2) Council Directive 98/58/EC.
(3) EU Directive 91/629/EEC as amended by Directive 97/2/EC and Commission Decision 97/182/EC.
(4) EU Directive 91/630/EEC as amended by Directive 2001/88/EC and Directive 2001/93/EC.
(5) EU Directive 99/74/EC.