Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

What are GMOs?

GMO stands for genetically modified organism. GMOs are organisms whose genetic material (their DNA) has been altered to contain a piece of DNA or gene from another unrelated organism. The aim of genetic modification is to introduce a new trait or characteristic. An organism is any living animal or plant, including bacteria and viruses, which are capable of replicating.
For centuries, crops, plants and animals have been cross-bred to change the genetic make-up of offspring and select for improved or desired traits and qualities. In traditional plant and animal breeding techniques, the individual species involved need to be the same or closely related to each other.

However, the discovery of genetic engineering techniques has made it possible to introduce, delete or enhance particular traits in organisms that are not closely related. This can be done by inserting genes from another organism or by altering its genetic make-up in another way. Modern DNA technology enables the ‘stitching together’ of pieces of DNA, regardless of where the pieces come from.

A GMO is defined in EU legislation as ‘an organism in which the genetic material is altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination’. 

What are GMMs?

The term GMO refers to all genetically modified organisms, including GM plants, GM animals and genetically modified microorganisms (GMMs). GMMs include genetically modified bacteria, viruses, viroids, and animal and plant cells.

What is the EPAs role with GMOs?

The EPA is responsible for implementing GMO legislation in Ireland relating to the following GMO activities:
• The  contained use of GMOs
• The deliberate release of GMOs into the environment
• The transboundary movement  of GMOs

GMO Licensing

The EPA is responsible for licensing GMO activities. Any individual or company using a GMO must first obtain a consent from the EPA. You can apply online for a licence here:  How to apply for the use of GMOs and /GMMs

For further information, contact our Environmental Licensing Programme at:

Office of Environmental Sustainability,
PO Box 3000
Johnstown Castle Estate
County Wexford
Phone: 053 91 60600

Telephone Locall: 1890 33 55 99
or 053 91 60600