Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

What are GMOs?

GMOs is an acronym for Genetically Modified Organisms.

An organism is any living animal or plant including a bacterium or virus that is capable of reproduction. Plants and animals are composed of many different cell types and each cell contains within it, copies of all its genes. Genes are made of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and hold the information that determines the organism’s particular form and function. Certain characteristics of an organism may be linked to a particular gene or combination of genes, for example flower colour.

For centuries crop plants and livestock have been cross-bred such that the genetic make-up of offspring has been altered to select for desired traits and /or qualities. Traditional plant and animal breeding techniques require that the individual species involved are the same or closely related. However the discovery of genetic engineering techniques have made it possible to introduce, delete or enhance particular traits in an organism either by inserting genes from another organism or by otherwise altering its genetic make-up. Genetically Modified Organisms are defined in EU Legislation as ‘those in which the genetic material is altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination’.

Where GMOs comprise bacteria, viruses, viroids and animal and plant cells in culture they are referred to as Genetically Modified Micro-Organisms or GMMs.

Where GMOs comprise GM plants or GM animals otherwise known as transgenic plants or transgenic animals, they are referred to as GMOs.

The Environmental Protection Agency is the authority in Ireland that implements GMO Regulations on:

  •  The contained use of Genetically Modified Organisms
  •  The deliberate release of Genetically Modified Organisms into the environment
  •  The transboundary movement of Genetically Modified Organisms

Learn more:

The Agency held a GMO Technology Conference on the 10th and 11th of October 2013 in Dublin Castle.  The presentations from the conference can be viewed here.   The EPA Report entitled "Synopsis of issues arising from the conference Regulation and Use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in technology in Ireland" can be found here.


For further information contact our Environmental Licensing Programme at:

Office of Environmental Sustainability,
PO Box 3000
Johnstown Castle Estate
County Wexford
Telephone Locall 1890 33 55 99 or 053 91 60600