A note from chairman

Prof Prakash KumarWelcome to the GMAC Website. The Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) was established by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in 1999. GMAC serves as an expert platform to provide information/advice relating to the use and safety of products of gene technology to government agencies, institutions and fellow Singaporeans. GMAC monitors and advises on the research, development, production and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Singapore. The committee members from various local regulatory agencies and academic institutions serve on a voluntary basis.

In an effort to constantly improve our lives, human creativity and ingenuity periodically leads to game-changing technological advancements. A couple of decades ago it would have been impossible to imagine the incredible convenience provided by the smartphone technology! When it started out, the technology was riddled with problems, including the issue of unacceptably high radiation from the handsets. Sustained research and development (R&D) made it safe for mass usage, revolutionizing communication, finance and banking. This is an excellent illustration of how technology can be safely developed, despite the inherent dangers.

Gene technology or biotechnology is similarly a technology that has been developing over the last several decades. The development of enabling technologies such as recombinant DNA, genome editing and other associated disciplines have led to the rise of plant and animal biotechnologies. Judicious use of available technologies to ensure our food security and healthcare needs must be continuously explored. It is even more urgent in the face of increasing global concerns, such as the adverse effects of climate change on food productivity and the environment. Gene technology is helping to advance agriculture, medicine and environmental science. New and beneficial products are coming at regular intervals.

The scientific community acknowledges the need to ensure the safety of products arising from gene technology. Stringent approval frameworks have been developed to regulate new genetically modified (GM) products. GM crops such as corn, canola, soybean, cotton and papaya have been in commercial cultivation for over three decades now. GM salmon has been approved for commercial aquaculture in North America. The safety of such commercial GM materials have been established, despite some reservations in the early days.

The benefits of using such technology and the need to carry out constant improvements to advance them are apparent. Singapore recognizes this and has established GMAC as the national platform to address various issues concerning the use of gene technology and to also meet relevant international standards in a bid to progress competitively in the global landscape.

GMAC also participates in educating the public on the science behind GM technology. Based on the view that fear and paranoia arise largely due to the lack of information on new technologies this committee strives to disseminate accurate and up-to-date information.

We belong to an age where technology is continually harnessed to improve our lives and our environment. We are just beginning to harvest the benefits of what GM technology can provide us. Hence it will be irresponsible of our generation to hinder knowledge creation in this technology, which may hold the key to open tremendous opportunities to enhance future food production and medical advances.

GMAC will strive to keep abreast of advances in the use of gene technology and related R&D activities locally and globally, while contributing to ensure Singapore's safety in the application of such biotechnology.

Prof Prakash P. Kumar
Chairman, GMAC (Singapore)