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Genetically modified organisms in Korea: state of affairs, policy, and regulation

South Korea

Feb 15, 2023

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is defined in the Act on the Transboundary Movement of Living Modified Organisms (GMO Act) as (1) an organism that contains a new combination of genetic materials or (2) injecting nucleic acids that make up directly into cells or micro-organisms in the cell, using modern biotechnology technology. GMO safety, regulation, and imports in South Korea are controlled by “the Korea Biological Safety Guide.” Article 3 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety uses the expression “In vitro nucleic acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles.” The GMO Act 2–2 especially defines the technology of “recombinant genes” or “injecting nucleic acids that make up genes directly into cells or micro organs in the cell” as modern biotechnology, which is in line with the purpose of the Cartagena Protocol. The existing Food Sanitation Act mandates a complete review of food safety. Soybeans, corn, firewood, and canola (vegetables) imported into Korea are also expected to fully complete the approval process stipulated in the GMO Act. There is already extensive research in Korea on genetically modified (GM) plants such as rice, pepper, lettuce, and grass. However, the research and development on GM animals, such as pigs for organ transplantation, are still in progress. As of December 2019, no GM crops have been commercialized and cultivated in Korea.

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