GMO and Organic Products in Iceland

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GMO and Organic Products in Iceland


Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Q: What is the situation on GMO products and organic food, as well as about the usage of pesticides and such toxic substances in Iceland? Are GMOs banned? Is organic food easy to find? And how much does it cost?



A: Iceland follows guidelines from the European Union when it comes to organic products as well as genetically modified organisms. GMOs are not banned in Iceland but they are required to be labeled as such. Similarly, laws strictly dictate which products can be labeled GMO-free and/or organic. Bovine growth hormones are completely banned.

Organic food is relatively easy to find. Bio-bú offers organic milk and yogurts and Grænegg eggs from free-range hens, distinguished by their green packaging. Lifandi Markaður, an organic store on Borgartún in Reyjavík has a wide selection of organic products, as does Heilsuhúsið on Laugavegur and several other stores. Frú Lauga offers all sorts of agricultural products straight from Icelandic farms and in regular grocery stores organic fruits and vegetables are clearly labeled. The cost of food in Iceland is generally high and organic products are slightly more expensive compared to non-organic ones, but not outrageously so.

Most fish sold in Iceland is caught wild, although there are fish farms here too, and lamb is practically game as lambs roam the highlands, feeding on grass and wild herbs, almost from the time of their birth, until fall when they are sent to the slaughterhouse. Organically certified beef and lamb is not widely available, but can be found at some smaller specialty stores, such as Frú Lauga mentioned above. Fjarðarkaup, a grocery store in Hafnarfjörður sells imported organic Danish chicken. Know that lífrænt means organic in Icelandic, and beware of products only labeled vistænt meaning sustainable. The word is not regulated by any agency and there is no guarantee that sustainable quality standards have been satisfied.

Insects are used in place of pesticides in Icelandic greenhouses, as reported recently. The practice of using pesticides is however not extinct and to be completely certain your food is pesticide-free, you should always check for the organic label.