The German term “Ohne Gentechnik” is not an exact translation of the English term “GMO-free”. The German term has been chosen to reflect precisely the legal definition of a food substance that is without any genetically engineered material.
In short, for a food product to be labeled “Ohne Gentechnik” (no genetic engineering), it must meet the criteria listed below. It should contain:
No genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or parts thereof
No vitamins, aromas, enzymes and other food additives manufactured with the help of GMOs
No GMO material in animal feed, with strict time limits being observed if animals have at some point been reared on feed containing GMOs.
When buying food that carries the “Ohne GenTechnik” seal consumers will be assured that these three criteria are met.
For both producers and manufacturers of food, as well as for consumers, it is important to understand that due to the limits of analytical detection the term “ohne” (without) does not mean “zero percent”. However, it does mean that operators in the feed sector must aim for “no GMO content”, i.e. show at most traces of up to 0.1 percent GMO content. There are exceptional cases where the law permits a higher presence of GMOs. These exceptions are documented as “adventitious or technically unavoidable”. In such cases GMO content of up to 0.9 percent can be permitted (as referred to in EU Regulations (EC) Nos. 1829/2003 and 1830/2003).
A detailed explanation of the labeling regulations regarding GMO content, specifically aimed at feed industry professionals, is included in an article entitled Supplying Raw Materials for GM-free Animal Products. This article has been endorsed by the BMEL.
Another expertise might be of help, compiled for a Non-GMO Soy Conference in Münster, Germany in April 2014. It focuses on the interpretation of the terms “accidental” and “adventitious”, that play an important role in the EU GE-labelling legislature.