Genetically modified organisms

Genetically modified organisms is a term that refers to organisms whose genetic material has been supplemented artificially with genes from other living organisms or whose genes have been modified in a manner not found in nature. Foods made from GMO plants and animals look and taste like ordinary foods. Only laboratory testing can determine whether a given specimen is a GM product.

In Estonia, the regulation of GMOs is shared between the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Social Affairs:

  • The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for issuing licenses for introducing GMOs into the environment or marketing of products containing or consisting of GMOs. It also grants licenses for import of GMOs and GM products.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for licenses for handling and marketing of GMO food.

Estonia has two advisory committees that perform risk analyses regarding GMOs or products containing or consisting of GMOs – the gene technology committee (at the Ministry of the Environment) and the GMO food committee (at the Ministry of Agriculture), which also performs risk analysis of products derived from but not containing GMOs.

The most common genetically modified crops are soybean, corn, cotton and rape-seed. People have the right to decide whether to use products made from GMOs or to avoid them. Stores are required by law to mark GM products with the text: “Product contains (may contain) a genetically modified organism.” The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is an annex to an international convention that aims to ensure the safe use of GMOs, especially as pertains to the cross-border movement of GMOs. The primary objective of the protocol is to ensure that information on GMOs permitted and used on the market would be available to all and that it would be prohibited to import GMOs to a country without the respective licenses.

Compiled by: Ministry of Agriculture