Genetically modified material

The guidance provided here should be applied to waste that arises from work with genetically modified micro-organisms and also to waste from work with any other organism that has been the subject of artificial genetic manipulation (e.g. transgenic plants and animals).

 The Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations require that anyone undertaking an activity involving genetic modifications must ensure that:

  • the exposure of humans and the environment to genetically modified micro-organisms; and
  • harm to humans arising from an activity involving genetic modification of organisms other than micro-organisms

are reduced to the lowest level that is reasonably practicable.

These requirements also extend to the control of waste materials including:

  • effluent from sinks, showers etc
  • genetically modified material in contaminated material and waste
  • run off water, for example from plant growth facilities
  • exhaust gases

Whilst SEPS strongly recommends that all waste contaminated with genetically modified material is inactivated before leaving the laboratory where the work is undertaken, the procedures for handling, storing, inactivation and disposal of GM waste must be informed by risk assessment. The recommended method of inactivation is, generally, by autoclaving.

To ensure adequate containment wastes must be inactivated by validated means and the regulations define inactivation as

'the complete or partial destruction of Genetically Modified Micro-organisms(GMMs) so as to ensure that any contact between the GMMs and humans or the environment is limited to an extent commensurate with the risks identified in the risk assessment and to provide a high level of protection for humans and the environment'.

In all cases GM waste must be transported in leak-proof containers and if the waste is being disposed off site then the service supplier may have additional containment requirements with which you must comply.

Companies that provide waste handling and disposal services must hold licences and registrations that are specific to the waste types being handled and the University has appointed an approved supplier for disposal of this type of waste. Further information on arrangements for disposal can be found in the Biological waste section of SEPS web site.

In all cases, when determining disposal/treatment of waste, you must consider any additional properties that the waste may have that would result in it being hazardous. This may include the presence of chemical or biological agents or radioisotopes.

The SEPS document Control levels for waste containing GM materials describes the level of control/inactivation that is legally required for a range of waste streams that may arise from work involving GM.


Further information on biosafety can be found on SEPS biosafety web pages and more detailed infomation on containment measures for waste containing GMMs can be found in the following Health & Safety Executive guidance:

A Guide to the Genetically Modified (Contained Use) Regulations 2000,  

Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2005 and also

Scientific Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification (SACGM) Compendium of Guidance.