Archived news articles - 1999

GMAC, 20 August 1999

Singapore guidelines on the release of agriculture-related genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Recombinant DNA technology has progressed globally to the level, where there is a healthy pipeline of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and GMO-derived products, that have been commercialised, or are in the process of commercialisation.

The Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) was established in Singapore in April 1999 to ensure public safety, while allowing for the commercial use of GMOs and GMO-derived products by companies and research institutions in Singapore. Four sub-committees were formed by GMAC to deal with the wide range of issues related to GMOs which include:

• Biosafety Guidelines for Agriculture-Related GMOs
• Biosafety Guidelines for Research on GMOs
• Labelling of GMO or GMO-derived products
• Public awareness programme on GMOs

The Sub-Committee on Biosafety Guidelines for Agricultural Products, chaired by the Primary Production Department and comprising representatives from Ministry of the Environment (ENV), Ministry of Health (MOH), Trade Development Board (TDB), National Parks Board (Nparks) and Institute of Molecular Agrobiology (IMA) has completed the Singapore Guidelines on the Release of Agriculture-Related GMOs. These Guidelines have been approved by GMAC.

The Guidelines cover genetically modified animals, plants, fish, insects, microorganisms and vaccines used in cultivation and farming, as well as primary food such as meat, eggs, fish, vegetables and fruits.

The objective of the Guidelines is to ensure the safe import, release and use of agriculture-related GMOs in Singapore. The Guidelines provide a common framework for:

i) the assessment of risks for agriculture-related GMOs to human health and the environment and

ii) the approval mechanisms for the release of agriculture-related GMOs in Singapore.

In addition, the Guidelines address issues related to food safety based on the concept of substantial equivalence. Substantial equivalence embodies the concept that if a new food or food component is found to be substantially equivalent to an existing food or food component, it can be treated in the same manner with respect to safety (i.e. the food or food component can be concluded to be as safe as the conventional food or food component.). Tools for risk assessment have also been included in the Guidelines.

A science-based approach was used in the drafting of the Guidelines. The Sub-Committee also considered the Guidelines of other developed countries such as Australia, Canada and the US in the drafting process.

Applications for the release and use of GMOs and GMO-derived products will be submitted to GMAC which will refer them to the Sub-Committee for consideration. The Sub-Committee will evaluate the application in accordance to the Guidelines to ensure the safety to human health and the environment.

The Sub-Committee will then make recommendations to GMAC to endorse the approval for the release of the relevant agriculture-related GMOs if it is found to be safe. It will also monitor the control of the release and use of these products through the relevant regulatory agencies.

The relevant agencies i.e. PPD, ENV, MOH and NParks have been designated to implement the Guidelines using their existing legislations. These agencies will adhere to the Guidelines when they approve the release and use of agriculture related GMOs and GMO-derived products.

GMAC is satisfied that the stringent scrutiny on GMOs specified in the Guidelines will ensure that any GMO approved for release in Singapore is safe to human health and the environment.

Issued by GMAC

For more information please contact:

GMAC Secretariat