Archived news articles - 2008

The Straits Times (Forum), 25 March 2008

All food here, including GM food, safe to eat: AVA

In response the article, 'Do you know how much of your food is genetically modified?' (March 14), we would like to clarify the issues of safety and labelling of genetically modified (GM) food.

Safety of GM food
The international consensus is that GM food is safe for consumption. This follows extensive reviews of the safety of GM food by various international scientific organisations over many years. All GM food must pass rigorous risk assessments to ensure it is safe for human consumption before it is allowed to be sold in the international market. GM food is governed by guidelines at both international and country levels. The international guidelines for assessing the safety of food derived from GM organisms are issued by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which is the international reference body for food standards.

In Singapore, the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) sets guidelines for the import, release and use of GM products here. GMAC was established in 1999 to oversee and advise on research and development, production, use, handling and release of GM organisms in Singapore. In assessing and approving GM foods for consumption in Singapore, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) follows the guidelines of both Codex and GMAC.

Labelling of GM food
Labelling of GM food is a complex issue and a consensus has yet to be reached at the international level. Where practised, labelling of GM food is done to give consumers choice, and not for food safety reasons.

Singapore 's position on GM food labelling is in line with international trends and practices. As mandatory labelling of GM food is currently not an international practice, making it compulsory might curtail our sources of supply and increase food prices.

Nevertheless, AVA and GMAC will continue to monitor international developments closely to ensure labelling requirements are up to date. Singapore is working closely with the Codex Committee on Food Labelling to develop acceptable guidelines on labelling of GM food. The Codex guidelines on GM food labelling are expected to take several years to finalise.

Although our current food regulations do not require GM food to be specially labelled, GM food, like all other food products, must meet existing food labelling requirements with regard to ingredient listing and information to facilitate tracing and recall. We assure consumers that food available in Singapore, including GM food, is safe for consumption.

Goh Shih Yong
Assistant Director, Corporate Communications
for Chief Executive Officer, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority

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