Straits Times Forum Letter - 5th June 2006

GM labelling regime must be practical

I THANK Dr Ooi Can Seng for his comments in his letter, 'GM foods should be labelled clearly' (ST, May 25).  

We would like to point out that the lack of international consensus refers to labelling of GM foods and not safety of GM foods, as mentioned in the first paragraph of his letter.  

That aside, Dr Ooi raised an issue which Singapore, like other countries in the world, continues to grapple with. Like many other countries in the world, we believe any labelling regime to be implemented must be practical, scientifically derived and effectively implementable.  

The issue of labelling raises a host of issues. Dr Ooi has indicated one of them: detection.  

The problem of detecting DNA in processed foods is a very real one.  

Proteins and DNA degradation occurs during manufacturing and preparation processes. It has been shown, repeatedly, that with current technology, little or no DNA can be detected in products which have undergone significant processing, such as purified lecithin (for example, soya lecithin), refined vegetable oil (for example, corn oil), starch derivatives (for example, maltodextrin, glucose syrup and corn starch), hydrolysed plant protein (for example, soya sauce powder) and heat-treated or processed finished products (for example, canned products).  

Commercially available GM crops have been put through rigorous evaluation to establish their safety for consumption.  

These safety tests and risk assessments are based on well-established and accepted scientific evidence, which include but are not restricted to tests on dietary exposures, toxicity and allergenicity.  

So far, there has been no conclusive scientific evidence that GM foods now in the market are unsafe.  

Singapore, as a net importing country, needs to stay alert to worldwide trends and developments.  

While the labelling debate continues internationally, we need to ensure that GM foods commercially available are safe for consumption.  

The Genetic Modification Advisory Committee will continue to evaluate safety tests and risk assessments of all foods containing GM organisms before they are released into Singapore.  

For more information and related news, visit our website at

Airani Ramli (MS)
Secretariat, Genetic Modification Advisory Committee
for Chairman, GMAC

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