Provisions on genetically modified food and feed are set out in the regulations of the European Community. The principle is to secure the dissemination of information and opportunity of choice for consumers. This has been implemented by means of a mandatory obligation to provide relevant GMO information in product labelling or otherwise in connection with marketing. The consumer can be confident that if there is no indication of genetic modification in the labelling, the foodstuff is not genetically modified.
However, the mandatory labelling of foodstuffs does not meet the consumers' information needs and expectations in all regards. For this reason, in addition to the mandatory labelling based on legislation, foodstuffs carry a multitude of marketing claims based on voluntary systems concerning, in particular, their origin and method of production.
Regulations do not prohibit the use of voluntary marketing claims 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. However, the labelling must always be clear and unambiguous, and it may not mislead the consumer.
At present, the EU has not specified any common criteria for marketing claims such as "gmo free", "the animal has been fed with gmo free feed", and the like. For Finnish operators and control authorities, the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has drawn up a guideline for the use of voluntary "gmo free" marketing claims on food and feed products. According to the guideline:
The "gmo free" or other similar marketing claim may only be used on food products that may contain genetically modified ingredients authorised in the EU (e.g. soy, maize or rapeseed) if the food product concerned does not contain any genetically modified ingredients (gm ingredient level 0% = detection limit). Even a minute level of any gm ingredient in the product will be considered misleading. Only properties in respect of which the product concerned differs from other similar products may be attributed to a food product.
The "gm free" or other similar marketing claim is not permitted at all on food products that contain ingredients of which no genetically modified species authorised in the EU exists (e.g. rice, oats, papaya, carrot or blueberry), because such a claim would be misleading.
The voluntary "produced without gene technology", "gmo free" or other similar marketing claim may only be used on foodstuffs of animal origin (e.g. meat, milk, egg or farmed fish) when the animal concerned has been fed with regular feed throughout its life cycle.
Evira's Guide 10017/2 Use of voluntary "gmo free" marketing claim on food and feed
"Gmo free" marketing claim on feed, (in Finnish)