EU: Genetically modified oilseed rape

Authorisations, but still no cultivation

As yet no genetically modified oilseed rape plants are grown on European fields. Authorisations have so far been restricted mainly to the import of food derived from GM oilseed rape plants.

Deliberate release trials with genetically modified oilseed rape in the EU 1992-2009

Deliberate release trials with genetically modified oilseed rape in the EU
Distribution by country, Applications: 381
A single application can involve deliberate release trials at several sites over several years.

Date: April 2012
Source: Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission

Deliberate release trials in the EU: After maize, oilseed rape is the crop with the largest number of deliberate releasetrials in Europe. They have been carried out mainly in France (116), Britain (106), Germany (40), Belgium (50) and Sweden (40).

Herbicide resistance is the leading plant trait conferred by inserting new genes, accounting for almost 70% of deliberate release trials. Male-sterile rape plants account for about a quarter of field trials. Genetic concepts which confer sterility simplify the breeding of hybridvarieties. Interventions in the metabolic process, which, in the case of rape, mostly aim to tailor the fatty acid composition to a particular processing application, are on the increase.

Deliberate releases in Germany. Deliberate release trials with genetically modified rape plants have been carried out in Germany since 1994, and a certain amount of experience has been gained. In the last few years there have only been isolated field trials with GM-rapeseed: The register of locations only shows one trial in 2006 and one in 2007.

Authorisation and cultivation in the EU

Genetically modified rape has not yet been used in the EU for agricultural purposes - and this situation is unlikely to change in the short term. Under existing legislation, no GM rape plants are unconditionally authorised for cultivation in the EU.

  • The import of seeds from three GM-rapeseed varieties and their processing to food and feed stuffs is permitted. On the basis of the scientific safety assessment carried out by the European Food Authority EFSA, approval was given for 2007 and 2009. However, this does not include the cultivation of these rapeseed lines in the EU.
  • Three GM-rapeseed lines were approved for cultivation in 1996 – 1998 in the EU, two of which only for seed propagation. These approvals expired in 2007. No applications for a renewal were submitted.
  • Two further applications for approval of GM-rapeseed lines for cultivation in the EU have been suspended for several years. EFSA has not yet started the safety assessment for these.

Cultivation of GM-rapeseed worldwide

Genetically modified rapeseed has been cultivated since the end of the 1990s in Canada and the USA, and since 2008 in Australia.

In 2011, 8.0 million hectares worldwide were cultivated with GM-rapeseed. That corresponds to 25% of the world rapeseed production.

  • In Canada, GM-rapeseed has become widely accepted and accounts for about 94% of cultivation area. The total are under rapeseed in Canada was 7.7 million hectares in 2011.
  • GM-rapeseed is also predominant in the USA (share 2011: 80%). Rapeseed however only plays a minor role in American agriculture (area: 0.5 million hectares).
  • In Australia, after a long discussion, cultivation of GM-rapeseed was permitted for the first time in 2008/2009. The area under cultivation increased from 9500 to 41 000 hectares in the following growing season. In 2011, already 140 000 hectares were cultivated with GM-rapeseed. The share of GM-rapeseed in the total Australian production is comparably low (6,6%).

The GM-rapeseed that is currently sown possesses a newly introduced trait, resistance to herbicide.