In the article "GM food in Singapore safe" (last Saturday), one of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's group directors, Dr Astrid Yeo, stated: "It is not international practice for GM (genetically modified) food to be labelled as such."
This is not entirely correct.
An Internet search will show that in some 40 countries, there are significant restrictions or outright bans and labelling requirements on GM foods (healthresearchfunding.org).
These countries include all of the European Union as well as China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
Of the major industrialised countries, only the US and Canada seem to accept GM foods without restrictions; the controversial company Monsanto has strong influence there.
On the same site, you find this statement: "Time and time again, studies have shown that the consumption of GM foods increases the risks of food-based allergies in people."
This contradicts Dr Yeo's comment that "there has been no substantiated scientific evidence to show that GM food is unsafe". The website responsibletechnology.org lists 65 documented health risks of GM foods.
There have been many issues concerning GM food, including animal tests linking them to digestive health problems and organ failure. Testing on humans has been more difficult and often resisted by Monsanto.
Other problems include environmental damage during the production phase, high costs versus low nutritional value, as well as unethical business practices by companies such as Monsanto.
The issue of GM foods is complex. That is why it is important that government agencies the world over are there to err on the side of caution, thereby protecting the public against other players driven purely by profits.
This article was first published on June 19, 2014.
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