Archived news articles - 2006

Business Times - 19 May 2006

New guidelines for research involving genetic modification


ORGANISATIONS that carry out research on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will need to have their research proposals assessed by an institution bio-safety committee from now on, according to guidelines released yesterday by the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC).

In addition, those that conduct experiments with 'significant risks' will have to be approved by GMAC, which will respond within 10 days.

By 'significant risks', it means that the project has the potential to infect a significant part of the population or harm the environment - such as experiments that involve the avian flu virus.

The institution bio-safety committee, or IBC, is to be set up by the research organisations themselves and should consist of individuals with requisite knowledge and expertise to evaluate and monitor the work being done.

GMAC has recommended a three to four person team for an IBC, but several organisations may also get together to form a bigger committee that may be tapped by the different organisations.

GMAC chairman Ngiam Tong Tau said that such guidelines, while not part of any legislation, are aimed at ensuring public safety and will serve as a common framework for research entities to adhere to.

'I also like to add that there are over-arching legislation in Singapore to protect public health,' he added. 'Ministry of Health has them, the AVA (Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority) also has them.'

Besides, it is in the interest of research groups to carry out due diligence on their own, if they want to uphold the credibility of their work.

'Unless you have a high standard of everything, nobody will believe what you are doing,' said Chan Woon Khiong, chairman of a GMOs research subcommittee under GMAC.

The IBC will need to monitor ongoing work and ensure the bio-safety standards of facilities and personnel within its research organisation.

It should also submit an annual report to the GMAC by Jan 1 every year.

Copyright @ 2006 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.