Archived news articles - 2000

The Straits Times, 23 November 2000

Few people here aware of GM products

Forum at NUS today aims to increase public understanding of the subject.

LESS than 2 per cent of people in Singapore know what a genetically-modified organism (GMO) is.

They are not aware that such plants and animals have been injected with genes to give them special properties, and that some GMO products are already on supermarket shelves here.

And unlike their European counterparts who protest against what they call "Frankenstein" food, people here are not particularly concerned about the issue and trust the Government to ensure their food is safe to eat.

According to a survey by the Asian Food Information Centre, only two out of 120 people in six focus groups here were able to explain what genetic engineering is.

But most were quite accepting of the technology when it was explained to them.

The centre, which is based in Singapore, is a non-profit organisation which provides information on food safety and nutrition.

To help people understand more about GMOs and GM foods, Singapore's Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) is holding a public forum today at 6 pm.

The event will be held at the Lim Seng Tjoe lecture theatre (LT27) at the National University of Singapore's science faculty.

Admission is free.

It will be chaired by Professor Hew Choy Leong, head of the NUS department of biological sciences.

The speakers, experts in biotechnology and GMOs, are Professor Trevor Thorpe from Canada's University of Calgary, Professor Arie Altman from Hebrew University in Israel, Professor Joanne Leong from Oregon State University in the US and Professor Garth Fletcher from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.

Associate Professor Lee Sing Kong, dean of graduate programmes and research at the National Institute of Education and chairman of GMAC's public-awareness sub-committee, told The Straits Times:

"Because we don't track GM foods through labelling, we do not know how much GM food is sold here; but GM materials could have been incorporated into foods like soyabean oil and cornflour.

"However, these foods are safe, because they have been tested stringently and proven safe for human consumption in their countries of origin."

It is not not known exactly what products here are modified genetically because the law does not make labelling compulsory.

But GM soya beans and corn, which have been approved in many countries, are likely to be incorporated in various processed foods and sold here.

On the forum, he said: "It will provide an opportunity to explain the science behind the technology in layman's terms, as well as the benefits and associated risks."

The forum is part of the Asia Pacific Conference on Plant Tissue Culture and Agribiotechnology being held in Singapore for international scientists to discuss advances in plant and animal biotechnology and their applications.

Singapore Press Holdings Limited The Straits Times (Singapore).Copyright 2000

Issued by GMAC

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