Archived news articles - 1999

GMAC, 11 May 1999

Committee set up to establish biosafety guidelines in Singapore for genetically modified organisms

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) has been set up to ensure public safety, while allowing for the commercial exploitation of GMOs and GMO-derived products by companies and research institutions in Singapore.

The objectives of GMAC are to oversee and advise on the research and development, production, use and handling of GMOs in Singapore, ensuring these are done in compliance with international standards.

GMAC will be developing and approving biosafety guidelines regarding GMOs, as well as exchanging information with overseas agencies to facilitate the harmonisation of guidelines with regional and international authorities.

GMAC's recommendations will be transmitted to the relevant regulatory agencies/ministries for adoption and implementation.

GMAC will also be responsible for reviewing proposals related to, monitoring the control of, and advising on the release of GMOs into the environment.

Sub-committees may be established, involving experts in specific areas to assess the risks involved with this release. Where necessary, GMAC will inform the public on the planned release of GMOs.

The Committee will be chaired by Prof. Lim Pin, Vice Chancellor of NUS, and involve members from government statutory boards, Ministries, and hospitals. NSTB is the Secretariat for this Committee.

In the course of fulfilling its mission, GMAC will adopt an approach based on sound scientific principles, to ensure public and environmental safety. Expert panels will be consulted when deemed necessary.

The biosafety guidelines to be developed will be in line with international standards and the committee will strive to create a streamlined approval and evaluation process. Efforts will also be made to educate the public on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or GMO-derived products.

The Committee first met on 12 April 1999, where it was decided that 3 sub-committees would be formed to deal with the wide range of issues related to GMOs. The sub-committee will focus on:

• Biosafety guidelines for agricultural products derived from biotechnology;
• Biosafety guidelines for research on GMOs; and
• The case for labelling of GMOs or GMO-derived products.


Significant technological advances will be required to meet the needs of the world's increasing population, in view of its limited resources.

The life science industry, comprising the pharmaceutical, agricultural and healthcare sector, is expected to see rapid growth in tandem with the global population and economy.

Recognising the potential of this dynamic field, the Singapore government has launched major initiatives to establish Singapore as a centre of excellence for the lifescience industry.

Supporting hard infrastructure (e.g. the Pharma Zone, the Science Parks, the Agri-bio Park) has been developed, together with investments in the soft infrastructure (e.g. trained manpower). In addition national research institutes and centres form Singapore's knowledge infrastructure, lending the capabilities, talents, and resources that the industry can tap upon.

Research institutes and centres in the life-science industry include the Institute of Molecular Agrobiology, the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, and the Bioprocessing Technology Centre.

Establishing a regulatory infrastructure that meets international standards will help to ensure safety and further enable companies based in Singapore penetrate global markets. Before the establishment of GMAC, Singapore did not have any biosafety guidelines pertaining to GMOs.

Issued by GMAC

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GMAC Secretariat