No significant policies or regulatory changes in the Agro biotechnology sector in Singapore in the last twelve months have been introduced.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
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Agricultural Biotechnology Annual
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No significant policies or regulatory changes in the Agro biotechnology sector in Singapore in the last twelve
months have been introduced. Two new GMOs have been approved since the last report. A new chairman and
several new members have been appointed to the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee. In the area of
capacity building and outreach, Ag Affairs Singapore, as in previous years, helped to recruit participants from
Singapore, Brunei and Papua New Guinea to participate in a number of USDA organized APEC conferences and
workshops on Agro biotechnology in the United States and in neighboring countries.
Section I. Executive Summary:
Being totally dependent on food supplies from other countries, Singapore, in 2011 imported US$12.1 billion of agricultural,
fish and forestry products from the rest of the world. In the same year, total agricultural imports from the United States
amounted to US$746million. Major food imports include alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, dairy products, fish and
seafood, poultry and meat, edible oils, fresh fruit and vegetables and snack foods,
No specific legislation has been enacted to deal with GMOs since Singapore feels the current Food Regulations are
sufficient to regulate the import and distribution of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), there have been no
However, in order to balance domestic safety concerns and to achieve a biosafety framework in line with international
standards, Singapore has set up a science based regulatory framework including the formation of the Genetic Modification
Advisory Committee (GMAC) to establish biosafety guidelines in Singapore for genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
In 2006, GMAC published the Singapore Guidelines covering the release of Agriculture–related GMOs and the Singapore
Biosafety Guidelines for research on Genetically Modified Organisms. Prior to the imports and distribution of genetically
modified organisms into the Singapore market, applications have to be submitted to the Genetic Modification Advisory
Committee (GMAC) for approval.
Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are starting to realize that needed increases in food production over the next decade will
have to come from the application of new technology to increase crop yields and to reduce losses through pests, uncertain
elements of weather, handling, storage and distribution. Singapore recognizes this need and hopes to play a key role through
the establishment of agro technology parks and the Agro-Bio Park. These agro tech parks are intended to promote R&D in
agro technology, and at the same time, attract foreign and local investments in a wide range of agro tech activities with the
objective of developing the nation into a regional hub for agricultural consultancy, research on seed technology and agro
technology research and development in tropical agriculture.
In addition, research and development in gene therapy, biologics R&D, diagnostics and genetic engineering have long been
considered fundamental to Singapore’s rapidly expanding biomedical industry, a key pillar of Singapore’s economic growth
and a major export sector.
While no new and separate legislation has been established specifically for the import, production or distribution of
genetically modified organisms, Singapore authorities are relying on existing food regulations under the Food Act to exercise
regulatory controls and oversight. Furthermore, the mandatory review process for the imports of new GMOs in the market
will provide an additional interlocking measure to ensure food safety.
All imported foods, both GMOs and non-GMOs have to be determined safe by their respective national regulatory bodies of
the exporting countries as well as in compliance with international safety standards established by Codex Alimentarius
before they are allowed entry into Singapore.
Section II. Plant Biotechnology Trade and Production:
New introductions of any agriculture-related GMOs in Singapore have to be submitted to the GMAC for review in
accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Subcommittee on the Release of Agriculture-Related GMOs.
The guidelines cover both processed and unprocessed food products and provide the framework for assessment of risks of
agriculture-related GMOs to human health and the environment. These guidelines also provide the approval mechanisms for
their release in Singapore. Once the application has been endorsed by GMAC, it will be forwarded to the regulatory
authorities for approval.
Singapore currently does not produce any agricultural-related GMOs in Singapore or outside the country. There are also no
domestically initiated biotechnology crops under development nor does Post envisage any that will be on the market in the
next 12 months.
Singapore has already approved the import of agricultural biotech products such as genetically modified corn and soybeans
to be used in foods and feeds. Some of these are U.S. origin. In September, 2007, the Singapore Government completed a
six-month trial monitoring of soya grains and corn kernels. Singapore importers were required to indicate the transgenic
content of the shipment of corn or soy grains and products on their permit application including the specific transgenic crops
or events present in the shipment. Some Singapore importers, U.S. millers and exporters expressed difficulty in identifying
any genetically modified grains since they do not segregate the different varieties of corn and soya grains handled and
processed through the same equipment.
According to the Singapore Government, the purpose of this trial was to explore a suitable mechanism to track food products
of genetically modified origin that are imported into Singapore. The United States was concerned that these
requirements may present significant challenges to Singapore importers of U.S. corn and soy grains without providing any
safety benefits to Singapore consumers.
Singapore, with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world (about $47,000 per annum), is not a food aid recipient and
is unlikely to be one in the foreseeable future.
Section III. Plant Biotechnology Policy:
The Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) comprising of members from ten government scientific and
educational agencies was established in Singapore in April 1999. The main objective of GMAC is to oversee and advise on
the research and development, production, use, handling and release of GMOs in Singapore ensuring that these are done in
compliance with international standards.
GMAC has developed the regulatory and administrative framework for approving biosafety guidelines regarding GMOs, as
well as for the exchange of information with overseas agencies to facilitate the harmonization of guidelines with regional and
international authorities. These guidelines address issues related to food safety based on the concept of substantial
The biosafety guidelines that are being developed will be in line with international safety standards and will strive to create a
streamlined approval and evaluation process.
Central to this framework is the use of existing legislation and food regulations enacted under the current Food Act to
regulate the import and distribution of genetically modified organisms. GMAC’s recommendations will be transmitted to the
relevant regulatory agencies for adoption and implementation.
The GMAC Committee consists of representatives from national agencies:
*Agency for Science, Technology and Research(A*STAR)
*Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA)
*Ministry of Manpower
*Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE)
*Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMB)
*Ministry of Health (MOH)
*Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
*National Institute of Education (NIE)
*National Parks Board (NParks)
*National University of Singapore (NUS)
The GMAC Committee has established four subcommittees responsible for the following areas of interests as identified
1. Release of Agriculture-Related GMOs
2. Biosafety Guidelines for Research on GMOs.
3. Labeling of GMOs and GMO-derived products.
4. Public Awareness
Importers applying to bring into Singapore genetically modified organisms must first prove that these GMOs are considered
safe for public consumption in their countries of origin before they are allowed entry into Singapore. Food producers must
perform tests on the quality, allergenicity, toxicity, composition and nutritional values of food derived from GMOs before
these foods are allowed entry. Foods containing new substances as a result of genetic modification are subjected to
Singapore Biosafety Guidelines for Research on
The Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) released in May 2006 a new set of guidelines to further promote
and enhance the biosafety culture amongst Singapore scientists who are working on genetically modified organisms and to
establish a common framework for the assessment and notification of research on GMOs in Singapore.
Entitled the ‘ Singapore Biosafety Guidelines for Research on Genetically Modified Organisms’ the Guidelines provide the
road map for ensuring public safety while allowing for the commercial exploitation of GMOs and GMO-derived products by
companies and research institutions in Singapore. The Singapore Biosafety Guidelines for Research on GMOs was the first
local guideline specific to genetic modification research.
Registration of Approved Agriculture-Related
A register of approved agriculture-related GMOs was established and is updated by the GMAC Secretariat. Once the GMOs
under consideration are approved for release, the GMOs are registered with the GMAC Secretariat.
Procedures for Notification
All agriculture-related GMOs imported into Singapore by the importer/distributor should be in compliance with existing
national and international regulations.
Prior to the distribution of any agriculture-related GMOs in Singapore, the importer is required to submit a proposal before
GMAC. The importer should consult GMAC to determine the appropriate approval process for the agriculture-related GMOs
and the specific information necessary for an assessment.
Filing an application
Proponents can file an application for the approval of agricultural biotech products under the current regulatory framework
Procedures for approval
The GMAC will forward the proposal to the Sub-Committee. The Sub-Committee may either endorse/reject the proposal or
appoint the relevant agency or an expert panel to evaluate the proposal within 90 days. The panel of experts will review and
assess the risks associated with each stage of the release using the questionnaire and risk assessment criteria as attached as
Appendices 1 and 2. The agency/expert panel will submit their recommendations to the Sub-Committee within 90 days.
The GMAC will decide on the recommendations of the Sub-Committee within 60 days.
GMAC can request further information/clarification from the Proponent should the need arises.
The proponent is required to disclose the necessary information for risk assessment and safety. The broad classification of
information required for GMAC to carry out a risk assessment includes:
1. Species of organisms
2. Eventual use of GMO
3. Location for release
4. Habitat and ecology
5. Genetics of the GMO
6. Data from contained work and other studios
7. Experimental procedures, monitoring and contingency planning
Singapore authorities follow internationally proven science based standards in enacting the regulatory framework for
approving the imports of agriculture related GMOs. Singapore tends to follow the lead of developed countries and
international bodies like CODEX in allowing the entry of GMOs into the country.
Names of GMAC office holders
Names and agencies of current office holders of the GMAC Committee:
Professor Paul TENG(Chairman)
National Institute of Education
Professor Prakash Kumar (Deputy Chairman)
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
(Chairman, Subcommittee on Research on GMOs)
Dr. CHUA Sin Bin
Agri-Food Technologies Pte Ltd
(Chairman, Subcommittee on Labeling)
Dr. Paul CHIEW
Director, Laboratories Department
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore
(Chairman, Subcommittee on Public on Public Awareness)
Associate Professor Peter DROGE
Division of Molecular Biology & Genetics
School of Biological Sciences,
Nanyang Technological University
Mr. SEAH Seng Choon
Consumers Association of Singapore
Dr. FOO Ngee Chih
Biomedical Research Council
Agency for Science Technology and Research
Ms. Mavis CHIONH
Economic Crimes and Governance Division
Attorney-General ‘s Chambers
Dr. Lena CHAN
National Biodiversity Centre
National Parks Board
Assistant Prof Uttam SURANA
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
A/Prof Davis NG
Senior Principal Investigator
Temasek Life Science Laboratory
Dr. Lucy LEONG Yi Min
Senior Specialist , Occupational Medicine
OSH Specialist Department
Ministry of Manpower
Dr. SE THOE Su Yun
Ministry of Health
List of Biotechnology crops permitted to be imported into Singapore
Crop ID Purpose
Corn MON863 Food, feed, or as ethanol
Corn NK603 Food, feed, or as ethanol
Corn MON88017 Food, feed
Canola GT73 Food, feed
Cotton 15985 Food, feed
Cotton MON1445 Food, feed
Cotton MON531 Food, feed
Cotton MON88913 Food, feed
Sugar beet H7-1 Food, feed
Soy bean 40-3-2 Food, feed
Soy bean MON 89788 Food, feed
Corn 59122 Food, feed
Following are the new GMOs approved by AVA since the last report.
Crop ID Purpose
Soybean 305423 Food, feed
Alfalfa J101;j163 As constituents of animal feed
Policy on Labeling GMOs
Currently Singapore does not have labeling regulations as the authorities recognize that it is a very complex issue that
requires careful consideration of several factors, e.g. threshold levels, types of foods to be labeled, and the scientific basis to
be used for labeling.
The Singapore government is monitoring and studying worldwide developments on this subject. It will wait and assess
decisions reached at Codex Alimentarius meetings and see if subsequent recommendations that are adopted at these meetings
can be embraced in the local context.
Section IV. Plant Biotechnology Marketing Issues:
Singapore has not enacted laws to specifically keep out genetically modified foods. Products that are deemed safe for
consumption by their national food regulatory bodies in their respective countries of origin will be reviewed by the GMAC
committee prior to their release in the Singapore market.
In general there are no barriers to the import of U.S. genetically modified products that have already been approved by U.S.
federal agencies like FDA. There are basically no political barriers enacted against the import of genetically modified
There are also no vocal consumer groups in existence in the country which are against the imports of GMO products.
Public Awareness Campaign
Efforts have routinely been made to educate the public on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or GMO derived products
through public awareness programs.
In a nationwide survey in May 2005 commissioned by GMAC, it was found that only 40 percent of the Singaporeans
surveyed have heard of the term ‘genetic modification’. However, only half of this group understood the terminology and
basic concepts. Among those who have heard the term ‘genetic modification’’ attitudes towards genetically modified foods
were favorable. About 20 percent of respondents thought that eating genetically modified foods could change a person’s
Since 2001, GMAC through its Subcommittee on Public Awareness has organized public forums, conducted talks, gave
interviews to schools, media and civic organizations and distribution of brochures on GMOs and genetically modified foods
to the general public.
On Jan 26, 2007, GMAC and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) organized
a public forum to address key issues on biotech crops.
The forum was very well attended by the media, business people, students and the general public.
In 2008, GMAC organized the GMAC Student Reporters’ Challenge 2008 where school students were invited to participate
in a creative writing and design competition. During the GMAC Press Event held in February 2008, student reporters were
given the opportunity to ask GM related questions to an export panel comprising members of GMAC, Consumers
Association of Singapore and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore. The student reporters created newsletters
to report the findings achieved at the event.
Cartagena Biosafety Protocol
At the time of writing this report, Singapore is not a signatory to the biosafety protocol.
Section V. Plant Biotechnology Capacity Building and Outreach:
The Office of Agricultural Affairs (OAA) in Singapore carried out extensive efforts to recruit delegates from Singapore,
Brunei and Papua New Guinea to the following APEC. Other participants who attended came from the APEC region.
1. APEC High Level Policy Dialogue in Agro Biotechnology, March 1-2, 2011, Washington D.C.
2. APEC Innovation Technologies Conference, May 2011, Big Sky, Montana
3. APEC Laboratory Capacity Building Workshop August 25-26, 2011, Bangkok.