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Norway is one of the most restrictive importers of GM products and does not produce GMOs.  As Norway is only part of the European Economic Area and not a full European Union Member it is not bound by EU Directives but generally implements EU Directives nonetheless.  There are several EU-approved GMOs that are specifically illegal in Norway.  Following a recent regime shift in Norway it is yet unclear whether Norway’s position on GMOs might change.

I.  Introduction

Norway is one of the most restrictive countries with regard to the importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and does not allow for GMO production.  It has yet to approve an application for the import of foodstuffs that include GMOs.[1]  Norway applies the precautionary principle[2] when vetting GMOs and in addition requires any user or importer of a GMO to show that the use is ethically and socially justifiable, requiring proof both that the GMO is not harmful and that its use will benefit society.[3]

The industry that is most concerned by GMOs is the fishing industry, and salmon producers in particular.  Yet, four fisheries have been exempted from applying for a license for genetically modified (GM) fodder, which was not subject to the application process until a more strict application process also made EU-approved GMOs subject to application in 2005.[4]

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II.  Public and Scholarly Opinion

The public is generally very averse to GMOs and Norwegians are considered, together with the Swiss, the most GMO skeptical in Europe.[5]

A.  Government Position

Norway had a change in government following the September 9, 2013, elections.  On October 16, 2013, Høyre and Fremskrittpartiet formed a government with Erna Solberg from Høyre as the prime minister.  Høyre has been regarded as holding the most GMO-friendly position of all the political parties in Norway, in particular, by advocating for more research on GMOs.[6]  It is too soon to tell whether this will affect Norway’s GMO policy.

B.  Position of the Opposition

The current opposition parties—Arbeiderpartiet, Sosialistisk Venstreparti, and Senterpartiet—were in government between October 2005 and October 2013.[7]  During this time no GMO was approved for food consumption.

C.  Scholarly Opinion

Some scholars argue that it is better to genetically modify a plant than to use pesticides,[8] especially as high volumes of pesticides have been proven to cause cancer.[9]  Yet, the Norwegian population at large is reluctant to change the laws, causing researchers to claim, “we cannot get [the research] financed, the farmers don’t want it and the consumers don’t want it.”[10]  Other GMO-related negative research that has received more traction includes a study on rats, which found that rats who eat GM corn are fatter than rats fed with normal corn.[11]  Another study in pigs showed that “GMO-fed” pigs were less healthy than pigs fed with non-GMO fodder.[12]

D.  Position of Industry

Norwegian fishermen were critical of the US decision in 2010 to allow GM salmon.[13]  Still, fisheries are unsatisfied with how Norway has handled the GMO issue previously, arguing that the fear of GMOs is not proportional to other risks connected to food and human health.[14]

E.  NGO Positions

1.  Norsk Landbrukssamvirke

The Norwegian NGO Norsk Landbrukssamvirke, representing sixteen producers on the Norwegian food market, also favors the precautionary principle.[15]

2.  Norges Bygdekvinnelag

Prior to the 2013 election there was a move by NGOs, including Norges Bygdekvinnelag (Norway’s Rural Women), a women’s association that advocates a strong rural community and local sourcing,[16] to push the then Stoltenberg government to deny the new GM corn applications that Norway had received.[17] 

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III.  Structure of Pertinent Legislation

Norway is not part of the European Union but has a strong record of implementing legislation based on EU directives and regulations, including EU Regulation 1829/2003.  It has, however, adopted a much stronger stance against GMOs than the European Union, specifically making imports of certain EU-approved GMOs illegal.[18]

A.  Genteknologiloven

Norway has chosen to issue a stand-alone act for its GMO regulation.  The Norwegian Gene Technology Act (Genteknologiloven),[19] adopted in 1993, covers the following issues: contained use of GMOs (ch. 2), release of genetically modified organisms (ch. 3), and cloning (ch. 3a).

The goal of the legislation is to ensure that all production and use of GMOs is ethically and socially justifiable, taking into account the goal of sustainable development without harm to health or the environment.[20]  By requiring that GMOs be both safe and contribute to the community, the legislation ensures that GMOs will face an uphill battle to enter the Norwegian market.

B.  Definition of GMO

“Genetically modified organisms” are defined in section 4(b) of the Gene Technology Act as “organisms altered through the use of gene technology or cell technology [cellteknologi].”[21]

C.  National Food Act

In addition to the Gene Technology Act, Norway also has a national Food Act (Matloven) regulating the use of GMOs in food.[22]

D.  Special Instructions/Ordinances

Norway has also adopted six instructions on the topic of GMO use issued by the Ministry for the Environment (FOR 2000-12-15 1268, 2001-12-21 1600, 2001-12-21-1602, 2001-12-21-1603, FOR 2005-09-02 1609) as well as a number of GMO regulations, which are listed on the Environment Agency website.[23]  These instructions focus on labeling, transportation, import, export, production, fodder use, and contained use of GMs, as well as impact reports and internal controls.

Certain EU-approved GMO products are specifically illegal in Norway and cannot be given an import license.[24]  All other GMOs are subject to a case-by-case application process whereby the pertinent license is granted by either the Food Safety Authority or the government.

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IV.  Restrictions on Research, Production, and Marketing

A.  Research

The contained use of GMOs is regulated in FOR 2001-12-21-1600.[25]  For use in laboratories, the use as well as the laboratory itself must be approved prior to commencing the use.[26]  The relevant oversight agency is the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs unless otherwise specified. 

B.  Labeling Requirements

Products that include GMOs must be labeled unless the GMO content is less than 0.9%.[27]

C.  Relevant Agencies

1. Bioteknologinemnda

The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board (Bioteknologinemnda)[28] oversees the use of biotechnology in general and issues statements and gives advice on the use of biotechnology (including GMOs).[29]  The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board is an independent body with members appointed by the Norwegian government.[30]  It includes biotechnology experts and representatives from affected industries.  It currently has no outright political representatives.[31]

In a recent communication with an applicant seeking to import GM soy, the board made a list of queries to the importer indicating that Norway is very restrictive towards GMOs and that approval of an application requires a showing of the effects of the import both short term (five years) and long term (twenty years).[32]  This is a showing that goes beyond that which the EU calls for, thus requiring applicants to make a separate application for Norway.

The Board has published a report in English on how it conducts its interpretation of the Gene Technology Act.[33]  In June 2013, a majority of members of the Board argued that Norway generally ought to deny applications for the import of GM corn into Norway.[34]  The overarching reason was that there was no justifiable benefit to society associated with the import that would outweigh the potential risks.[35]  Thus, the Board relies heavily on the precautionary principle.  Although the Board leaves the final decision to the government, which also consults the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety, the Food Safety Authority, the Norwegian Environment Agency, and the Ministry of the Environment, the Board’s position clearly reflects some reluctance with regard to GMOs.

2.  Norwegian Food Safety Authority

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority[36] is the inspection agency for both GM food and GM fodder (see Part VI(B)(1), below).

3.  Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety

According to its website, “[t]he Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM)[[37]] carries out independent risk assessments for the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) across the Authority’s field of responsibility as well as environmental risk assessments of genetically modified organisms for the Norwegian Environment Agency.”[38]

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V.  Restrictions on Releasing Organisms into the Environment

The release of organisms into the environment is regulated by the Gene Technology Act, which requires a permit and an impact analysis.[39]

The Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management (part of the Norwegian Environment Agency) is responsible for the administrative aspects and coordination of applications for release of GMOs into the environment.[40]

Prior approval is required for the transport of most GM material.[41]   Examples of GMOs that do not require approval for transport are genetically altered animals that do not have wild relatives with whom cross-fertilization may occur.[42]  Records must be kept of all transports of GMOs.[43]  The Norwegian Environment Agency should be informed and if the GMO is classified as a hazardous good the local fire department must also be informed.[44]  In addition the transporter of the GMO must ensure that all handling of the GMO is done without risks to health or the environment.[45]

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VI.  Restrictions on GMOs in Foodstuffs

A.  Assessment of Risks

Because Norway adheres to the precautionary principle,[46] the assessment of risk is central to the granting of GMO licenses in the country.[47]  The applicant for a GMO license must show that its intended use is consistent with the legal requirement, “ethically and socially justifiable, taking into account the goal of sustainable development without harm to health or the environment.”[48]

B. The Role of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority

Each application for a GMO license requires that an environmental impact report be sent to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.[49]  The Food Safety Authority is the authority on both GMOs in foodstuffs and in fodder.  In addition to the general Gene Technology Act, GMOs in food are also regulated by Lov 19 des 2003 nr 124 om matproduksjon og mattrygghet mv. (Matloven).  So far the Food Safety Authority has not approved any use of GMO in fodder or food.  It has, however, granted the fishing industry an exemption from GMO-related permit requirements (see Part VI(D), below).

C.    Fodder for Livestock

Fodder for livestock is regulated under FOR 2002-11-07 nr 1290: Forskrift om fôrvarer (Regulation Relating to Fodder).[50]  GM fodder must be labeled and approved by the National Food Safety Authority.[51]  Currently, there is no fodder that has gained approval for use with livestock.[52]

D.   Fodder for Fish

Although Norwegian salmon were not fed GM fodder when the rules for fodder changed in September of 2005, they may well be in the future.[53]  In 2008, the Fiskeri og Havsbruksnaeringens Landsforening (FNL) acknowledged it was becoming more difficult to find GMO-free fodder.[54]

Prior to 2005 Norway had less stringent rules on the importation of EU-approved GMOs that were processed and used as fodder for fish; however, through recent legislation Norway no longer accepts these blanket imports, but instead requires permits for each GMO imported.  Because some players on the fishing market may find it impossible to find GMO-free fodder Norway granted an exemption until 2008, which has now been extended into 2014.[55] The exemption only applies to the need to apply for a permit, not to the requirement to label such imports.  A list of the GM products (corn and soy) that the fisheries may use as of September 15, 2013, is available on the Food Safety Authority website.[56]

E.  Labeling

All products containing GMOs must be labeled “contains genetically modified [‘organisms’ or name of product]” in either Norwegian or English.[57]  The information should be stated on the packaging if the product is packaged, or in accompanying documentation if it is not.[58]  The information must be accompanied by information to the distributor, as well as information that identifies which GMOs it includes.[59]  For those products that it is impossible to adequately label as GM, directly or through supporting documentation, prior approval is needed.[60]

F.   Inspections

Inspections of GMOs in plants are conducted by the Food Safety Authority.[61]  As of 2012 there were few illegal GMOs reported in foodstuffs.[62]  However, a genetically modified aquarium fish, the so-called zebra fish (Danio Rerio), was found in Norway in 2012.[63] 

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VII.  Liability Regime

Damages and liability for GMO are regulated in chapter 4, section 23 of the Gene Technology Act.[64]  A person (legal or physical) who releases a GMO is responsible for any damage, inconvenience, or loss that it may cause, regardless of his or her own culpability.  In addition, violations of the Gene Technology Act may result in a fine or imprisonment for up to one year.[65]

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VIII.  Judicial Decisions / Prominent Cases

There are no prominent court cases in Norway on GMOs.  In 2013 the Food Safety Authority discovered that GM corn was illegally imported and distributed as popcorn.[66]  The Food Safety Authority had previously stopped the sale of popcorn containing GMOs.[67]

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Elin Hofverberg
Foreign Law Research Consultant
March 2014


[1] See generally Mattilsynet, http://www.mattilsynet.no (Norwegian Food Safety Authority website; last visited Nov. 13, 2013).

[2] For a discussion of the precautionary principle, which generally allows for preventative decision making in the face of environmental risk, see The Precautionary Principle, Europa: Summaries of EU Legislation, http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/consumers/consumer_safety/l32042_en.htm (last visited Nov. 20, 2013); see also discussion in EU survey, supra at 65, nn. 4, 6.

[3] Genteknologiloven [Gene Technology Act ], Lov April 2, 1993 no. 38 om framstilling og bruk av genmodifiserte organismer m.m., ch. 1:1 §, http://lovdata.no/dokument/NL/lov/1993-04-02-38.

[4]See Faar norske produksjondyr genmodifisert for?, Mattilsynet (Nov. 27, 2012), http://www.mattilsynet. no/planter_og_dyrking/genmodifisering/faar_norske_produksjonsdyr_genmodifisert_for.4024.

[5] Pressmeddelande SLU, EU-konsumenter mindre negativa till GMO än man trott, Forskning.se (Sept. 11, 2013), http://www.forskning.se/nyheterfakta/nyheter/pressmeddelanden/eukonsumentermindrenegativatillgmoan mantrott.5.14577fce1410af7f17532.html.

[6] Hoyre mest positive till genmodifiserte mat, Dagen.no, http://www.dagen.no/Default.aspx?ModuleId= 62582&articleView=true&tabId=248 (last visited Oct. 26, 2013); see also GMO – hva svarar partiene?, Oikos (Aug. 20, 2009), http://www.renmat.no/newsread/page.aspx?docid=11328.

[8] Bedre å sette inn et gen enn å sprøyte, NRK (Oct. 2, 2012), http://www.nrk.no/fordypning/forskere-positive-til-gmo-mat-1.8333629.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Rotter fetere av genmat, Forskning.no (July 11, 2012), http://www.forskning.no/artikler/2012/juli/327547.

[12] Griser far darligere helse med genmodifisert mat, NHI.no (June 13, 2013), http://nhi.no/forside/griser-far-darligere-helse-med-genmodifisert-mat-40051.html.

[13] Nå kommer den genmodifiserte laksen, NRK.no (Nov. 19, 2010), http://www.nrk.no/nordnytt/na-kommer-den-genmodifiserte-laksen-1.7388437.

[14] Advarer mot en ensidig negative holdning till GMO, Dagen (July 19, 2013), http://www.dagen.no/ Default.aspx?ModuleId=62582&articleView=true&tabId=248.

[15] Genmodifisering i landbruket, Norsk Landbrukssamvirke, http://www.landbruk.no/Naeringspolitikk/ Internasjonalt/Genmodifisering-i-landbruket (last visited Oct. 21, 2013).

[16]Bygdekvinnelaget – en modern møtesplass, Bygdekvinnelaget, http://bygdekvinnelaget.no/om-bygdekvinnelaget (last visited Dec. 1, 2013).

[17] GMO-forbudet må på plass nå, Bondebladet (Oct. 4, 2012), http://www.bondebladet.no/rammebetingelser/ 2012/10/04/gmo-forbudet-maa-paa-plass-naa.aspx.

[18] See FOR 2000-12-15 1268, Forskrift om forbud mot omsetning i Norge av bestemte genmodifiserte produkter [Regulation on the Prohibition on Use in Norway of Specified Genetically Modified (GM) Products], http://www.lovdata.no/for/sf/md/xd-20001215-1268.html

[19] Gene Technology Act, supra note 3.  An overview of pertinent legislation is available at Norsk regelverk om GMO, Miljodirektoratet (Feb. 19, 2010; rev’d June 14, 2013), http://www.miljodirektoratet.no/no/Regelverk/Lov/Genteknologiloven/Norsk-regelverk-om-GMO/.

[20] Id.

[21] Id. 4 § (translation by the author).

[22] Lov 19 des 2003 nr 124 om matproduksjon og mattrygghet mv. (Matloven [Food Act]), http://lovdata. no/dokument/NL/lov/2003-12-19-124?q=matloven.

[23] Nasjonale forskrifter, Miljodirektoratet (Feb. 19, 2010; rev’d June 14, 2013), http://www.miljodirektoratet. no/no/Regelverk/Lov/Genteknologiloven/Norsk-regelverk-om-GMO/Nasjonale-forskrifter/.

[24] Regulation on the Prohibition on Use of Specified GM Products, supra note 18.

[25] FOR 2001-12-21-1600 Forskrift om innesluttet bruk av genmodifiserte mikroorganismer [Regulation on the Contained Use of Genetically Modified Microorganisms], http://www.lovdata.no/for/sf/ho/xo-20011221-1600.html.

[26] Id. 7 § st. 1.  Note that not all uses need prior approval.  The use of GMOs in Risk Classes 1 and 2 only requires notification.  Id. 10 §.

[27] Gene Technology Act, supra note 3, 4:14 §; FOR 1993-12-21 nr 1385: Forskrift om merking mv av næringsmidler [Regulation on Food Labeling] ch. III:10c, http://www.lovdata.no/cgi-wift/ldles?doc=/sf/sf/sf-19931221-1385.html#10c; FOR 2002-11-07 nr 1290 Forskrift om fôrvarer [Regulation Relating to Fodder] ch. III:4b §, http://www.lovdata.no/cgi-wift/ldles?doc=/sf/sf/sf-20021107-1290.html#4b

[28] Bioteknologinemnda, http://www.bion.no (last visited Nov. 22, 2013).

[29] Gene Technology Act, supra note 3, ch. 5:26 §.

[30] Id.

[31] A list of members can be found on the Board’s website, http://www.bion.no/om-oss/nemndsmedlemmer/ (last visited Nov. 22, 2013).

[32] 2013/110, Genmodifisert, sprøytemiddelresistent soya DAS-444 ø6-6, June 21, 2013, http://www.bion.no/filarkiv/ 2013/06/Hoeringssvar-EFSA_GMO_NL_2012_106-soya-DAS-444%C3%986-6-21.06.13.pdf.

[33] Bioteknologinemnda, Sustainability, Benefit to the Community and Ethics in the Assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms: Implementation of the Concepts Set Out in Sections 1 and 10 of the Norwegian Gene Technology Act (2d rev. ed. 2009), http://www.bion.no/filarkiv/2010/07/2009_ 11_18_diskusjonsnotat_baerekraft_engelsk.pdfFor more on this subject, see G. Kristin Rosendal, Competing Knowledge Claims and GMO Assessment by the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board, FNI Report 5/2007 (Aug. 2007), http://www.fni.no/doc&pdf/FNI-R0507.pdf

[34] Press Release, Bioteknologinemnda, Noreg bør avslå 27 søknader om å få godkjent genmodifisert mais til import, vidareforedling og bruk i mat og fôr, tilrår eit fleirtal i Bioteknologinemnda (Sept. 10, 2013), http://www.bion.no/ 2013/07/nei-til-genmodifisert-mais/.

[35] Id.

[36] Mattilsynet, http://www.mattilsynet.no (last visited Nov. 22, 2013).

[37] Vitenskapskomiteen for Mattrygghet (VKM), http://www.vkm.no (last visited Nov. 22, 2013).

[38] VKM, http://www.english.vkm.no/; see also GMO overview at http://www.vkm.no/dav/adfb158238.pdf (both last visited Nov. 22, 2013).

[39] Gene Technology Act, supra note 3, 10 & 11 §§. 

[40] FOR 2005-12-16-1495, Forskrift om konsekvensutredning etter genteknologiloven [Regulation on Impact Assessment According the Gene Technology Act] § 3.

[41] FOR 2005-09-02-1009 § 7, Forskrift om merking, transport, import og eksport av genmodifiserte organismer [Regulation on Labeling, Transport, Import and Export of Genetically Modified Organisms], http://www.lovdata.no/for/sf/md/xd-20050902-1009.html#map004.

[42] Id.

[43] Id. § 9.

[44] Id. § 20.

[45] Id. § 4.

[46] Id. (referencing the legislative history of the Norwegian Gene Technology Act).

[47] Bioteknologinemnda [The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board], Sustainability, Benefit to the Community and Ethics in the Assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms: Implementation of the Concepts Set Out in Sections 1 and 10 of the Norwegian Gene Technology Act 8 (2d rev. ed. 2009), http://www.bion.no/filarkiv/2010/07/2009_11_18_diskusjonsnotat_baerekraft_engelsk.pdf

[48] Gene Technology Act, supra note 3, 1 § (translation by author).

[49] See Forskrift om konsekvensutredning etter genteknologiloven, supra note 40; Lov 19 des 2003 nr 124 om matproduksjon og mattrygghet mv. (Matloven), http://lovdata.no/dokument/NL/lov/2003-12-19-124?q=matloven; Forskrift om fôrvarer, supra note 27.  More information on the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) is available on its website, http://www.mattilsynet.no (last visited Nov. 22, 2013).

[50] Forskrift om fôrvarer, supra note 27.

[51] Id. 4a & 4b §§.

[52] See Mattilsynet, http://www.mattilsynet.no/planter_og_dyrking/genmodifisering/ (last visited Nov. 22, 2013).

[53] Laks kan få genmodifisert mat, NRK.no (Aug. 1, 2006), http://www.nrk.no/nordland/laks-kan-fa-genmodifisert-mat-1.792575.

[54] Henrik Stenwig, Op-ed., Oppgjør med bonde-topp, FHL.no (Mar. 27, 2008), http://fhl.no/oppgjor-med-bonde-topp/.  

[55] Press Release, Mattilsynet, Fire virksomheter har fått dispensasjon fra kravet om godkjenning av genmodifisert fiskefôr(Sept. 17, 2013), http://www.mattilsynet.no/planter_og_dyrking/genmodifisering/fire_virksomheter_ har_faatt_dispensasjon_fra_kravet_om_godkjenning_av_genmodifisert_fiskefor.10951.

[56] Genmodifiserte fôrprodukter som fiskefôrvirksomhetene Biomar, Ewos, Skretting og Polarfeed kan omsette på det norske markedet inntil 15. september 2014, forutsatt at de er merket genmodifisert, Mattilsynet, http://www. mattilsynet.no/planter_og_dyrking/genmodifisering/oversikt_over_tillatte_gmproduktgrupper_pr_15_
september_2013.10952/BINARY/Oversikt%20over%20tillatte%20GM-produktgrupper%20pr%2015%20september%202013
.

[57] Forskrift om merking, transport, import og eksport av genmodifiserte organismer, supra note 41, § 19. 

[58] Id.

[59] Id. § 19 st. 2–3.

[60] Id. § 7e.

[61] Forskrift om fôrvarer, supra note 27, § 18.

[62] Faa funn av ulovlig genmodifisert materiale paa det norske markedet, Mattilsynet (Apr. 29, 2013), http://www.mattilsynet.no/planter_og_dyrking/genmodifisering/faa_funn_av_ulovlig_genmodifisert_materiale
_paa_det_norske_markedet.9246
.

[63] Fant ulovlig genmodifisert fisk, Miljodirektoratet.no (Nov. 30, 2012; rev’d May 23, 2013), http://www.miljodirektoratet.no/no/Nyheter/Nyheter/Nyhetsarkiv/2012/11/Fant-ulovlig-genmodifisert-fisk/.

[64] Gene Technology Act, supra note 3, 4:23 §.

[65] Id. ch. 4:25 §.

[66] Mattilsynet stanser salg av genmodifisert mais ti popcorn, Mattilsynet.no (Sept. 18, 2013), http://www. mattilsynet.no/planter_og_dyrking/genmodifisering/mattilsynet_stanser_salg_av_genmodifisert_mais_til_popcorn.10901.

[67] Mattilsynet stanser salg av genmodifisert popcorn, Mattilsynet.no (June 18, 2013), http://www.mattilsynet. no/planter_og_dyrking/genmodifisering/mattilsynet_stanser_salg_av_genmodifisert_popcorn.9920.

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Last Updated: 05/22/2014