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Genetically modified and novel foods

Novel foods

Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning novel foods and novel food ingredients defines novel foods as products that have not been used for human consumption to a significant degree in the EU before 15 May 1997.

The marketing of a novel food is authorised under a common decision concerning all EU countries. In Finland, the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira is the national contact point [T1] for novel food authorisations. The national expert body [T2] is the Novel Food Board operating under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Genetically modified food was excluded from the scope of the Novel Foods Regulation in 2003 when the Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed entered into force. Thus, GM foods are no longer considered novel foods.

In 2013, the Commission issued a proposal (COM(2013)894) for a comprehensive reform of the Novel Foods Regulation. The year 1997 would be maintained as a criterion for a product to be considered a novel food. The most significant element of the reform would be that the safety assessments conducted prior to authorisation would be centralised to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The current operator-specific novel food authorisations would be replaced with generic authorisations. A simplified procedure is proposed for foods from non-EU countries having a history of safe use. The reform also takes into account emerging production and manufacturing methods, such as nanotechnology.

Further information on novel foods is available on Evira’s website. The website also includes information on novel food applications and authorisations. A list of novel food authorisations is also available on the European Commission’s website.

Genetically modified food

The use of genetically modified (GM) food and feed is regulated by the Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council. GM foods include food containing, consisting of or produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

If a food consists of or contains GMOs, this must be indicated in the labelling. Consumers can find the information in the list of ingredients used in the food. However, labelling is not mandatory if the food only contains minute traces of genetically modified material and if the presence of the material is unintended. The limit is 0.9 per cent of the ingredient in question.

The marketing of GM foods and feeds is authorised under a common decision concerning all EU countries. In Finland, the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira is the national contact point for GM food and feed authorisations. The national expert body is the Novel Food Board operating under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

More information on gene technology is available on Evira’s website. The European Commission’s website includes a GMO Register of GM food and feed. The FAO GMO Foods Platform of the UN food and agriculture organisation contains information on genetically modified food crops. The EFSA website also provides information on gene technology.

Novel Food Board

The Novel Food Board operates under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The members of the board are experts in the fields of nutrition, medicine, toxicology, allergology, food sciences, microbiology and biotechnology. The board may also consult external experts, when necessary. The current board has been appointed for a five-year term from 26 May 2012 to 25 May 2017.

In accordance with the Novel Foods Regulation, the board assesses the safety of products for which an application has been submitted in Finland, preparing initial assessment reports for discussion at the EU level. The board also submits statements to the Ministry on assessments prepared in other EU countries and assists the authorities in other matters concerning novel foods or food safety. The board has been appointed to give statements on the safety of GM foods under a government decree.


 [T1]Käännetty suomenkielisen alkutekstin mukaan, mutta asetuksessa sekä komission ja Eviran sivuilla puhutaan toimivaltaisesta viranomaisesta "competent authority".

 [T2]Asetuksessa ja komission sivuilla "assessment body"

Further information

Leena Mannonen, kaupallinen neuvos 
MMM, Ruokaosasto, Elintarviketurvallisuusyksikkö 0295162177