Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Working with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Working with genetically modified organisms

Genetic modification, also known as genetic engineering or recombinant-DNA technology, allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another and also between non-related species.

The products obtained from this technology are commonly called genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

A number of pieces of legislation control the use of this technology and cover:

  • Contained use for example research trials within a laboratory or greenhouse
  • Research releases, for example small scale trials of plants or the trials of pharmaceutical products such as vaccines
  • Commercial releases
  • The sale and labelling of animal feedstuff that contains genetically modified content.

EU legislation aims to ensure that human health and the environment are protected.

What you must do

Obtain a licence

In Northern Ireland the Department of the Environment is responsible for the licensing of deliberate releases of GMOs into the environment. The Department of Agriculture and Rural development (DARD) is responsible for issues relating to the traceability and labelling of genetically modified animal feedstuffs.

In Scotland the GM Inspectorate and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) is responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations governing the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs. Local authorities are responsible for the enforcement of traceability and labelling requirements and for sampling and testing food and feed for GMOs.

You can find out more about GMOs and the legislation that controls their use:

At present there are no commercially grown GM crops in either Scotland or Northern Ireland. A number of controlled trials of pharmaceuticals that use GM technology have taken place.

Manage waste safely

Waste materials from your laboratory may contain parts of animals and materials that are classed as animal by-products.

Animal by-products that have been used in research activities, or which could have been infected during experiments must be treated as Category 1 (high risk) animal by-products.

Category 1 material must be disposed of by:

  • direct incineration
  • rendering - followed by incineration or landfill.

You can find out about dealing with animal by-products in our guidance:

Animal By-products

In this Guideline

Working with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Environmental News Blog

  • My Year at NetRegs, A reflection on my time as an intern with the NetRegs team at SEPA. An overview of all the activities and projects I had the opportunity to participate in during my Bright Green Environmental Placement.

  • A day with Hydrology, SEPA's hydrometry unit is responsible for around 400 gauging stations and 350 rainfall monitoring sites. River gauging stations are important as they allow river levels to be monitored so flood events can be predicted and flood warnings sent out.

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!


NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms