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A Communications Guide to Improving Understanding


Food Biotechnology
Asia Food Information Centre

International Service for the

Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications


October 2001

I Introduction and Objectives......................... 3

II Status of Food Biotechnology in Asia...........4

III Agricultural Biotechnology........................... 6

and Food Safety

IV Gauging Understanding................................ 9

V Communication............................................. 10
Key Messages
Commentary for PowerPoint Presentation
Myths and Facts
Expert Comments

VI Additional Resources on.............................. 32

Food Biotechnology

VII Appendix....................................................... 35
A1 Glossary of Terms
A2 History of Food Improvements
and Developments
A3 Regulatory Agencies and Regulations
by Country
A4 Review of Regulations on Food Labeling
A5 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

Copyright: Permission is granted to reproduce whole or any part of this

resource, provided credit is given to original source.

Introduction and Objectives

Current and potential future benefits of biotechnology are numerous. They include new and more
effective pharmaceuticals, more accurate methods of diagnosing disease, improved waste management
techniques, new methods of production and improved food quality and safety.

For people in Asia – whether they are wheat farmers on the Ganges Plain of India, rice farmers on the
terraces of Bali, cotton growers in China or inhabitants of fast-paced cities like Singapore or Tokyo –
the implications of biotechnology will be significant. In the area of food and agriculture, the effects of
biotechnology are likely to have many facets including better crop yields, reduced use of chemicals for
plant disease and pest control, less environmental degradation, as well as the development of innovative
food products, such as foods with improved nutritional value or better food quality and safety.

Biotechnology is not seen as a panacea for all the region’s food production problems. The supply of
food is a complex process and biotechnology offers one part of a multi-faceted strategy to meet the
growing demands for more and better quality foods.

The Asian Food Information Centre (AFIC) and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-
biotech Applications (ISAAA) have joined together to develop Food Biotechnology: A Communica-
tions Guide to Enhance Understanding Biotechnology. The Guide is intended to provide leaders in the
scientific, medical, food and agricultural communities and educators involved in these areas, with a
helpful resource kit. This resource is intended to provide context and to improve understanding of the
practice and issues associated with modern biotechnology. The kit aims to provide the most scientifically
sound and up-to-date information about biotechnology products and processes.

The resource provides an overview of regional production and regulations regarding crop biotechnology
and includes findings from research conducted in Asian countries on consumer understanding and
awareness of biotechnology. A presentation outlining the basic science of biotechnology is included in
PowerPoint format with an accompanying commentary. This could be used as a draft for presentations
on Food Biotechnology or as a starting point for presentations in other languages.

Future resources are planned which will provide information relevant to other areas of modern agricul-
tural biotechnology.

Given the diversity of communities in Asia with respect to race, religion, and social and economic status,
it is especially important that any communication be based on an appreciation and respect for one’s
audience. It is also important to establish a baseline for the level of the understanding of food
biotechnology present in your audience.

Status of Food Biotechnology in Asia

Countries in Asia have a long history of producing foods using biotechnology including soy sauce,
tempeh and natto (fermented soybeans), belacan (fermented shrimp paste), cincaluk (fermented
shrimps), budu and ngoc nam (fermented fish sauce), tapai (fermented rice), toddy (fermented young
flowers of palm) and sake. Foods such as pickles, vinegar, bread, yoghurt and cheese are also the
products of biotechnology.

More recently, countries in Asia have begun working in the area of crops produced from modern
biotechnology or genetic modification. The current status of various countries and the regulations
governing this area are listed below.

Table 1: Current Status of Biotechnology Crops in Asia

Country Contained Field Large Scale

Experiments Experiments Pre-commercialization /

China + + ++
Australia + + ++
India + + ++
Indonesia + + +
Philippines + + ++
Thailand + + -
Vietnam + - -
Korea + + -
Japan + + +
Malaysia + + -
Singapore + + +

China, Australia, India, and the Philippines are the only countries in the region that have full-scale
commercialisation of biotechnology crops. In China, genetically modified cotton, sweet pepper, tomato,
and petunia have been approved for commercialisation. In 2003 area in China cultivated with
biotechnology crops were close to 3 million hectares. Australia grew approximately 300,000 hectares in

There is a considerable amount of research taking place around the rest of Asia, however, and most
countries have R & D programs on genetically modified crops and other areas of food biotechnology
(See Table 2).

Table 2: Examples of Crops in Agricultural Biotechnology Research

Programs in Asia


China Cotton, Maize, Tomato, Green pepper, Rice, Wheat, Peanut, Tobacco, Cabbage,
Melon, Chili, Petunia, Papaya, Potato, Soybean, Orange, Rapeseed.

Australia Cotton, Rapeseed, Fruits.

India Rice, Cotton, Mustard, Rapeseed, Potato, Tomato, Brinjal,

Cauliflower, Cabbage, Chili, Bell Pepper, Groundnut, Pigeonpea,
Chickpea, Sorghum.

Indonesia Maize, Peanut, Cacao, Soybean, Corn, Rice, Sugarcane,

Sweet Potato, Cotton.

Philippines Papaya, Rice, Oil Palm, Chili, Pineapple.

Thailand Rice, Maize, Papaya, Chili pepper, Cotton.

Vietnam Rice, Sweet Potato, Soybean, Papaya, Cotton, Sugarcane.

Korea Rice, Leafy Vegetables.

Japan Rice, Vegetables, Fruit.

Malaysia Rice, Papaya, Durian, Oil Palm, Pineapples, Chilli, Orchids.

Taiwan Garlic, Onion, Eggplant, Mungbean, Peppers, Tomato, Rice,


Singapore Rice, Leafy Vegetables.


Agricultural Biotechnology and Food Safety

When a consumer buys food s/he expects it to be safe and have the same quality characteristics that s/
he is accustomed to, and familiar with. Consumers have the right to know that this is the case and if
there is anything different about that product.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) of the
United Nations advocate the concept of ‘substantial equivalence’ as the most practical approach to
address the safety evaluation of foods or food components derived through modern biotechnology. This
approach states that ‘if a new food or food component is found to be substantially equivalent to an
existing food or food component, it can be treated in the same manner with respect to safety.’ So what
kind of tests are used to determine if the food is as safe or safer than existing foodstuffs?

Researchers must prepare comprehensive data to support the safety and wholesomeness of new crop
varieties developed through biotechnology. This process requires years of laboratory and field testing
before a product can be brought to the market.

To provide assurance that foods derived through biotechnology are as safe as those produced by
traditional breeding programs, the safety assessment strategies involve several key steps. These steps
include molecular characterisation of the genetic modification, agronomic characterisation, nutritional
assessment, toxicological assessment and safety assessment (see Table 3). For example, typical
questions that must be addressed are:

• Does the genetically modified food have a traditional counterpart that has a history
of safe use?
• Has the concentration of any naturally occurring toxins or allergens in the food
• Have the levels of key nutrients changed?
• Do new substances in the genetically modified food have a history of safe use?
• Has the food’s digestibility been affected?
• Has the food been produced using accepted, established procedures?

Even after these and other questions about the biotechnology derived foods are answered, there are still
more steps in the approval process before the crop can be commercialized. In fact, genetically modified
foods are the most studied food products ever produced.

Table 3

Safety assessment
Molecular characterisation – for new plant varieties produced through modern biotechnology,
the source of the gene introduced into the plant is first identified. The transformation system
used to insert the gene is defined, as well as the number of copies of inserted genes and the
integrity and stability of the genetic insert.

Agronomic traits
Usually the starting points for evaluating substantial equivalence. For example, in the case of
potatoes, the traits commonly examined are yield, tuber size and distribution, dry matter content
and disease resistance.

Nutritional assessment
Involves key nutrients including fats, proteins, carbohydrates and essential vitamins and

Toxicology assessment
Toxicants and anti-nutrients are compounds known to be naturally present in some crops that
could have an impact on health if their levels increased. For example, solanine glycoalkaloids in
potatoes or trypsin inhibitors in soybeans). The levels of anti-nutrients in crops produced
through biotechnology are compared to conventionally produced varieties grown under
comparable environmental and agronomic conditions.

Safety assessment
When a crop produced through biotechnology is shown to be substantially equivalent to a
conventional crop, the safety assessment focuses on the introduced trait and the expressed
protein product.

Additional testing is undertaken on a case-by-case basis.

The overall goal of these tests is to determine whether the plant is substantially equivalent (in terms of
chemical and nutritional composition and characteristics) to food derived from a conventional source
that has a history of safe use.

A substantial equivalence evaluation focuses on the product rather than the process used to develop the
product. If the new product is substantially equivalent to the conventional food or feed, then the product
derived through biotechnology is considered to be as safe as the conventional counterpart. If the food
produced using biotechnology contains a new trait, which changes the levels of nutrients or anti-
nutrients, such as a higher level of a vitamin or a lower level of an allergen, the assessment focuses on
demonstrating the safety of the new trait.

One of the public’s biggest concerns related to genetically modified foods is that an allergen (a protein
that causes an allergic reaction) could be accidentally introduced into a food product. The DNA
inserted into a plant is safe and no case of allergy to DNA is known, the concern is whether the protein
produced by the plant as a result of the inserted DNA could cause an unexpected allergic reaction.

Scientists know a lot about which foods trigger allergic reactions in adults and children. Ninety percent
of all food allergies are associated with only eight foods or food groups – shellfish, eggs, fish, milk,
peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts, and wheat. These, and many other food allergens, are well characterized.
To date, genes found to express any known allergenic protein have been specifically excluded from the
research and development process.

Scientists have agreed that following these simple steps provides compelling assurance that no allergic
effects will result from foods derived from biotechnology:

1. Avoid transferring genes from foods known to be allergenic.

2. Check the structure of any new proteins produced in foods derived from biotechnology
against the structures of known allergens to assure that no allergenic structures exist
in the new protein.
3. Measure the stability of the new protein in stomach and intestinal fluids. Most aller
gens are stable to these conditions. Proteins which are unstable to these conditions are
not likely to be allergens.
4. Determine how much of the new protein will be present in the food consumed by
humans. Most allergens are present in large amounts (10% or more of the protein in
the food where they occur).

Allergenicity screening continues to be a very important part of safety testing before a crop can enter
into the food market.

Antibiotic Resistance
Some biotechnology crops contain genes for a trait called antibiotic resistance. Scientists use this trait
as a marker to identify cells into which the desired gene has been successfully introduced. Concerns
have been raised that these marker genes could move from biotechnology crops to microorganisms that
normally reside in a person’s gut and lead to an increase in antibiotic resistance. There have been
numerous scientific reviews and experimental studies of this issue and they have come to the following

• The likelihood of antibiotic resistance genes moving from biotechnology crops to other
organisms is extremely remote.

• In the unlikely event that an antibiotic resistance gene is transferred to another organism, the
impact of this transfer would be negligible, as the markers used in genetically modified crops
have limited or no clinical or veterinary use.

However, in response to public concerns, scientists have been advised to avoid using antibiotic
resistance genes in biotechnology modified plants. Alternative marker strategies are being developed.

Gauging Understanding
What do people in Asia think about food biotechnology?

The development of any educational material should be based on a sound understanding of what the
audience currently knows.

In 1998-99, AFIC commissioned market research to identify consumer knowledge and attitudes
towards biotechnology in Asian countries. AFIC’s research was undertaken in the urban areas of
Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.

In 2002, the survey was repeated with additional questions to provide an updated and more in-depth
understanding of consumer knowledge and attitudes with regard to food biotechnology. The survey was
done in the urban areas of China, the Philippines and Indonesia. The survey found that the majority of
consumers are aware of the presence of biotechnology-derived foods in their everyday diet, and are not
averse to this situation. Biotechnology foods rated as the issue of least concern while those of the
greatest concern were nutritional value, microbial contamination and pesticide residues.

In 2003, AFIC conducted research using focus group discussions methods in the Philippines, China,
and India to assess the consumer perception toward biotechnology foods as well as to test and develop
appropriate educational messages on issues relevant to food biotechnology. These countries were
selected partly because they had progressed regulatory decisions on the cultivation of biotechnology in
the previous 12 months and thus discussions could reference actual, rather than hypothetical national
policy status.

The main findings of the studies are as follows:

• The majority of consumers adopted an open-minded position towards biotechnology
• What consumers are most concerned about are the use of pesticides and
preservatives in food production.
• Many participants in the research surveys clearly had very limited knowledge
about biotechnology. However increasing knowledge levels were associated with
increasingly positive acceptance of biotechnology foods.
• Survey participants expressed clear desire for more factual information in
understandable language and format
• The application of biotechnology to potentially produce foods with enhanced
nutritional value or requiring less pesticide for cultivation, elicited very positive
• Consumers were very unaware of prevailing concerns being debated within the
inner circle of stakeholders and were not seeking information on safety and risk
• Unsolicited information on safety assessment did not appear to improve knowledge
levels, but instead generated anxiety, no matter how the information was

Recommendations Drawn From AFIC Survey Findings
The development of any educational material should be based on a sound understanding of what the
audience currently knows. There is poor overall awareness and understanding of food biotechnology.
Furthermore, there is little understanding of agricultural practices in general, especially crossbreeding
and cultivation techniques.

• Consumer interest is primarily focused on the potential benefits of biotechnology such

as nutritional benefits and the use of biotechnology to reduce pesticide use. Therefore
education activities will be most effective if consumer benefits of biotechnology foods
are used as the cornerstone message or at least as an introduction to the topic.
• The terminology used is important in determining responses to the information
received. Technical terminology such as “genetically engineered”, “genetically modified”
is perceived to be intimidating and held implication that the foods had been altered by
industrial methods. The terms “genetically enhanced” and “biotechnology foods” were
found to be the two most suitable (neutral) forms to describe food biotechnology

• Consumers were generally unaware of the concerns debated among the inner circle of
stakeholders. Providing information on these issues may not improve knowledge levels
and instead create further confusion.

• In Muslim countries, information on the source of the genes was sought because
consumers needed to know that modification of gene sequences did not change ‘halal’

• Messages that drew comparison with the West were considered inappropriate, thus
case studies and research results sourced from the west were not perceived as credible.

• The main source of information used for biotechnology was the media and hence
educational initiatives should look to work with media.

• The credibility of communication channel is influenced by its source. Scientific and

academic community, and international agencies (eg FAO and WHO) are viewed as
credible sources of information.

Key messages on food biotechnology

The topic of food biotechnology continues to be complex and confusing and it is therefore important to
identify the key factual messages and to state them clearly and concisely. Providing one or more
supporting facts can then reinforce this knowledge.

The following messages are those which have been identified through research and experience to be the
points most relevant and of most interest and concern to audiences in Asia.

Key Messages

(1) Food biotechnology can contribute to food security in Asia.

• Food biotechnology can help to produce better quality and more nutritious foods.
• Food biotechnology is not a panacea for all the region’s food production problems. The supply
of food is a complex process and biotechnology cannot, and does not, apply to all the issues
that face the region in the area of food security. It does however offer a useful and important
complementary tool in helping to address food security and quality issues in Asia.
• Biotechnology can contribute to solving the challenge of conserving non-agricultural land, whilst
producing sufficient food for growing population through increased yield productivity.
• Biotechnology provides greater opportunities to grow crops where it was previously impossible,
due to extreme weather or soil conditions.

(2) Foods produced using biotechnology will have direct consumer benefits
While most corn, soybeans and other crops produced through biotechnology are no
different in nutrition, composition or safety than conventionally produced crops; some
actually have improved nutritional profiles that benefit consumers. Examples of im
proved foods include –

• Oil crops with lower levels of saturated fats to reduce saturated fat content of the diet.
• Oil crops with lower unsaturated fat content, which require less hydrogenation and therefore
produce foods with lower trans fat content.
• Potatoes with increased levels of solids that absorb less fat when frying.
• Rice, sweet potato and other staples with higher levels of vitamin A, reducing the high
prevalence of vitamin A deficiency.
• Rice and other staples with higher levels of iron and zinc, which are both essential nutrients in
the human diet.
• Delayed ripening traits can produce fruits and vegetables with better flavour and remain fresh
for longer periods of time.
• Increased solid matter content of tomatoes and potentially other fruits and vegetables results in
superior taste, quality and shelf life.

Plus - Reduced pesticide use on crops which use biotechnology to strengthen a crop’s ability to defend
itself against destructive insects.

(3) Food biotechnology is a green technology and biotechnology offers considerable

benefits for the environment.

• Crops produced using biotechnology require less pesticide.

• More efficient use of herbicides leads to less damage to the environment from pollution and soil
• Biotechnology helps protect water by reducing the level of nutrients in farm runoff and
conserving topsoil.
• Plant diseases that can destroy an entire crop are now largely preventable among certain crops,
protecting farmers and our food supply from devastating losses.

(4) Foods produced from biotechnology are safe

• To date, there is no evidence that any harm has come to anyone of the millions of people around
the world in the last decade who have eaten foods derived from biotechnology.
• Regulatory authorities in the region closely monitor the safety of all foods including foods
produced through biotechnology.
• The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization have established
procedures to determine the safety of biotechnology products and these procedures are met or
exceeded by regulatory systems around the world. Countries such as the United States. Japan,
Canada, Australia, Argentina, Korea, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and the European
Union have all used their regulatory process to determine the food safety of at least one product
of biotechnology.
• Professional organisations such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Australia and New
Zealand Food Authority, and the Institute of Food Technologists have supported the use of food
biotechnology to improve food production.
• To date all foods resulting from biotechnology have not been found any more likely to cause
allergic reactions on consumption, than their traditional counterparts.

In the area of communication on science and technical issues, the use of very technical language
is often counterproductive. Scientific jargon, although accurate, can confuse and even alarm
non-scientists, evoking negative reactions.

Food biotechnology needs to be discussed in everyday terms. It is important for people to

understand that the technology is about seeds that are planted in the ground and that grow into
plants just like any other plants. If normal everyday language is not used it sends the message
that the technology is about experiments undertaken just in the laboratory and it gives a false
impression of food biotechnology.

The understanding and acceptance of any science or technology including food biotechnology
can change dramatically depending upon the language used. The preferred scientific term for
defining “recombinant DNA technology” is biotechnology or green technology. In many Asian
countries, the most readily understandable terms include food biotechnology or genetically
modified foods. Abbreviations such as “GM food” or GMOs are perceived as jargon. Such
terminology may lead to confusion, miscommunication and even misinterpretation of the topic
and related issues.

A list of suggested “Words to use” and “Words to lose” has been developed to help with
discussions on food biotechnology. This list was created from talking with consumers,
professionals in the scientific and health community and the media.

“Words to Use”

Agricultural Diversity Hybrids Plant breeding

Biotechnology Explore Improved Planter
Ancestors Experience Information Quality
Better Farmer Long-term Safety
Biology Field Mankind Seeds
Biotechnology Food Natural Tradition
Characteristics Future Nurture Trait
Choices Generations Nutrition Wholesome
Companies Grower Organic
Concern Hard work Parents
Crops Heritage Partners
Discover History Pioneer

“Words to Lose”
The following words have been found to confuse people especially those with no scientific background
and should be avoided where possible in order to improving understanding.

Alter Laboratory
Ambitious Machines
Any jargon Manipulate
Breakthrough Modified
Chemical Organism
Create Patent
DNA Perfection
Economic Pesticides
Engineered Proven
Expense Revolutionise
Experiments Shelf life
Exploit Shortcut
Genes Short-term
Genetically engineered Splice
Genetically modified organisms Technology
GMO Transgenic

Commentary for PowerPoint Presentation: Food Biotechnology in Asia

This section helps provide the most scientifically sound and up-to-date information about food
biotechnology. The PowerPoint presentation and accompanying suggested commentary notes help to
provide a basic explanation of food biotechnology. It also aims to answer many questions while
clarifying common myths about food biotechnology. It can be customised to suit different audiences or

Slide 1: Food biotechnology in Asia

You may have heard a lot about food biotechnology lately. If so, you may be wondering what it is and
what it means to you. Biotechnology is an important tool used to improve the quality of our lives. It has
been with us for years, is with us now, and will continue to be around in the future. It has already
provided many benefits from life-saving medicines to more nutritious foods. This presentation will focus
mainly on food biotechnology.

Biotechnology as applied to the food production system builds on the knowledge gained over thousands
of years of plant production. It is a process that has the potential to improve the nutrition, taste, quality
and freshness of many foods today.

Studies show that most people in Asia are not aware of the terms “biotechnology” or “genetic
modification” and if they are, they don’t know enough to explain what it means.

Slide 2: What is biotechnology?

Biotechnology can be a confusing term, but let’s take the word apart. “Bio” means biology or the
science of living things while “technology” means the tools and processes used to make products.
Together, it means using biology to make new products and in this context, food crops.

Slide 3: Foods from traditional biotechnology

Some examples of foods derived from traditional biotechnology include soy sauce, fermented soybeans,
shrimp paste, rice wine, and fish sauce. Even pickles, bread, yoghurt, and cheese are all products of
biotechnology. Micro-organisms have been used to make such products.

Slide 4: Biotechnology timeline

Food biotechnology has been evolving for thousands of years.
10000 BC Crops are domesticated through farmer selection of desirable plant types.
8000-9000 BC Goats and sheep are the first animals domesticated in Mesopotamia,thus beginning
the selective breeding process.
6000 BC Fermentation is the breakdown of sugars into alcohol or lactic acid by mircroorganisms, such
as yeast. Egyptians used this important process to brew beer 6000 years ago.
4000 BC Although flat bread already existed, around 4,000 BC Egyptian breadmakers found
another use for yeast. They found it would cause the bread to rise.

1880s For the first time in 1885, Louis Pasteur used a vaccine to artificially increase immunity against
a disease – in this case rabies.

1920s In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which paved the way for Howard Walter
Florey and Ernst Boris Chain to later develop it into an effective therapy for infectious diseases.

1960s Parallel improvements in varieties of rice and wheat sparked the Green Revolution and
contributed to a doubling of the world’s food supply of cereals.

1990s Genetically improved plants are developed using the tools of modern biotechnology.

Slide 5: Evolution of biotechnology

Thus the evolution of food biotechnology dates back all the way to10,000 BC. Now, we are equipped
with modern tools that allow us to improve our foods even more efficiently than before.

Slide 6: What is modern biotechnology?

Modern biotechnology employs the tools of genetics to enhance beneficial traits of plants, animals, and
microorganisms for food production. It involves adding or removing selected genes to achieve desired
traits. Selecting specific genes to add to, or remove from, plants or animals is a more precise method of
breeding, offering farmers more ways to improve crop and animal production.

Slide 7: Analogy
This slide provides a good analogy for the differences between traditional plant breeding and modern

Slide 8: Genetically modified applications

Genetic modification or modern biotechnology is being used to improve many foods and it has already
been adopted in commercial agricultural production in many countries.

Slide 9: Products currently in the market

In 1990 the first food products enhanced via biotechnology were introduced to the market. These
products consisted of an enzyme used in cheese production, which was approved in the United States,
and a yeast used in baking which was approved in the United Kingdom. In 1994, the first whole food
produced using biotechnology entered the U.S. marketplace. This was the FlavrSavr? tomato which
stayed fresher longer than other tomatoes. This is the list of countries that have approved genetically
modified food products.

Slide 10: Consumer benefits

There are many current and potential applications for biotechnology, including improving taste, safety,
nutritional profile and quality of many foods. Biotechnology could provide potential consumer benefits
through safer, tastier, more nutritious food choices.

Slide 11: Future food products

Future products that are being developed include those that:

• Fight the lack of micro-nutrients

e.g. Increasing the amount of vitamin A or iron in rice.
Increasing the amount of vitamin E in vegetable oils.
• Help prevent common diseases
e.g. Soybean and canola oil with more stearate(healthier unsaturated fat).
Potatoes with higher starch content.
• Reduce non-food related allergies
e.g. Modifying a plant called guayule that produces a latex, which causes fewer side effects and might be
cheaper to produce than the commonly used latex from the Brazilian rubber tree.
• Reduce toxins
e.g. Insect resistant maize less likely to harbor mycotoxins in the corn ears.
• Serve as edible vaccines
e.g. Potatoes containing a vaccine against Hepatitis B virus.
• Reduce allergens in foods
e.g. Developing techniques to identify and neutralize the genetic material in rice, wheat, peanuts, and
other foods that cause severe allergic reactions in some people.

Slide 12: Consumers support GM food

Many Asians are not opposed to the concept of biotechnology. People are enthusiastic about the
potential for improved food quality and safety through biotechnology. Asian consumers remain positive
about the many potential benefits of GM food, despite unbalanced media coverage and confusion in the
international marketplace. A survey coordinated by the Asian Food Information Centre in Dec 1998-
Nov 1999 revealed the following: More than 80% of people were prepared to try a food product made
from genetically modified crops. More than half of the respondents would purchase or eat genetically
modified foods if they were proven to be healthier.

Slide 13: Farmer benefits

Biotechnology could offer farmers a more efficient way to produce safer products in greater numbers.
Some of the benefits include: More flexibility in operations, lesshard manual labour. Efficient pest control
built into crops means farmers are exposed to less risk and more willing to invest in their farm
operations. Farmers can control weeds at any time. Finally, it makes farming more attractive to the
younger generation.

Slide 14: Environmental benefits

1. Higher yields decrease need to convert forests and natural habitat into farmland.

2. Conservation tillage aided by biotechnology – The development of herbicide resistant crops

has allowed farmers to practice conservation-tillage farming. This is the practice of planting
seeds through the stubble of last year’s crop, rather than plowing and disking the field. The
stubble protects topsoil against loss to wind and rain and reduces chemical run-off to streams.
By not plowing, farmers also conserve soil moisture, which can reduce irrigation demands in
some regions.

3. Improved water quality through reduced soil erosion and run-off – Soil sedimentation or
siltation is sometimes a major threat to stream quality. A summary of studies found that no till
farming which is facilitated by biotechnology, can reduce soil erosion by 90%.

4. Reduced use of insecticides and herbicides aids beneficial insects, wildlife, plants, and
humans - Use of biotechnology derived plants with built-in resistance to insects and diseases
could mean that substantially fewer pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides would be required,
thus reducing farmers’ exposure, a particular problem in many developing countries where
protective gear may not always be available.

5. Nitrogen fixing crops could reduce use of nitrogen fertilizers – One of the biggest challenges
in agriculture is the fact that most crops, with the exception of legumes such as clover, do not
naturally produce nitrogen, but require the application of nitrogen fertilizers for growth.
Considered “frontier” research at present, international scientists’ research is progressing to
produce nitrogen-fixing rice. That is, rice that can produce its own nitrogen to enable it to grow.
Currently, it is estimated that about 10 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer are needed each year for
rice production worldwide, and that amount is expected to double in the next several decades.
Besides the potential decreased cost to poor farmers, the massive amounts of fuel needed each
year to produce nitrogen fertilizers could significantly decrease with the production of such rice.
Scientists have made progress in transferring one gene involved in the nitrogen fixing process to
rice plants, and are working on achieving the same results with other genes involved.

6. Biodiversity can be aided by improved plant resilience – Biotechnology can aid in preserving
endangered plants through genetic enhancement of traits needed for survival. Modern
biotechnology, together with other methods, such as seed banks, can help to preserve and even
reintroduce native plants that are endangered. This could promote biodiversity and help to
enhance food security by saving plant varieties for the future.

Source: International Consumers for Civil Society. http://www.internationalconsumers.org

Slide 15: Economic benefits

In the US, the primary benefit of Bt corn varieties has been increased yields
In 1999, it is estimated that 66 million bushels of corn were saved from the corn borer, or the equivalent
production of nearly 500,000 acres.
• Net revenues are estimated to have increased by U$99 million in 1999.
• The use of herbicide tolerant soybean varieties has been a reduction in weed control costs,
of U$216 million per year in 1999 and growers have also reduced the number of herbicide
applications, by 19 million in 1999.
In addition to the potential consumer benefits, agricultural biotechnology presents a range of
possible economic benefits. (Source: National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy).

Impact of Bt cotton in China

• A sample of 283 cotton farmers in Northern China was surveyed in December 1999.
Farmers that used Bt cotton reduced the use of pesticide without reducing output/ha or
quality of cotton. This resulted in substantial economic benefits for small farmers.
• At least 85% of the 1999 benefits from the adoption of Chinese Bt cotton varieties went to
small scale farmers
• Farmers who grew most popular Bt varieties reduced their costs of production by 20-23%
over new non-Bt varieties.
• Small farmers- those whose farms are less than 1 ha or have family incomes less that RMB
10,000-gained almost twice as much income per unit of land from adopting Bt cotton as
large, more wealthy farmers gained.
• In addition to the potential consumer, environmental and economic benefits of
biotechnology, there should be worldwide benefits in meeting the food needs of the growing
population in Asia. According to Norman Borlaug, Nobel Prize winner, “In the next 25
years, farmers in Asia must increase their yields by 50-75%.”

Source: Pray C., Ma D., Huang J., and Qiao F. 2001. Impact of Bt cotton in China. World Development Vol 29:

Slide 16: Impact of food biotechnology on food security

Slide 17: Combating hunger

These benefits are particularly important considering about one billion people around the globe cannot
count on eating every day, according to the World Bank. For example the populations of India and
China are forecast to grow to 1.6 and 1.5 billion, respectively by 2050. The Philippine population is set
to almost double over next 25 years.

Simply put, the use of agricultural biotechnology can result in more food being produced on less land to
feed a rapidly growing global population.

Slide 18: Approved food biotechnology is safe

Opponents of biotechnology question its biosafety. However, many of the criticisms are not supported
by evidence or fact. Government agencies involved in health, science, technology, agriculture and trade
are committed to ensuring the safe application of biotechnology. A number of other health and food
organisations also support the scientific basis of biotechnology. These include UN FAO, WHO,
OECD, The Third World Academy of Sciences,the Institute of Food Technologists and the Australian
Institute of Food Science and Technology. By May 2001 , more than 3,000 leading scientists, including
two Nobel Prize winners, had signed a declaration endorsing gene technology as a safe,
environmentally-friendly and useful tool to help feed the developing world.

Slide 19: Labelling policy

In Asia, national food standards have been developed in all countries to ensure the safety of the food
supply. Standards for the labelling of foods produced through biotechnology are currently under
discussion in most Asian countries and also by the United Nations agencies responsible for global food

In Japan, food ingredients produced through biotechnology must be labelled if they make up the first
five ingredients by weight. Refined products such as oils and sugars in which no protein or recombinant
DNA can be detected are excluded from labelling requirements. Korea has introduced mandatory
labelling for all genetically modified foods with more than 1% genetically modified content.

The debate around the labelling of genetically modified foods stems from the consumers “right to know”
rather than a safety issue. All foods that are allowed to be sold in the market are regulated by the
country’s food regulations and are considered wholesome and safe to eat.

Slide 20: What does the future hold?

The future for food made using agricultural biotechnology looks promising. New foods, nutritionally
enhanced to protect and promote good health, are in development.

Advances in biotechnology can help further reduce toxins in plants and help to detect plant contaminants
more efficiently, thus improving the safety of our food supply. Fruits and vegetables may stay fresher for
longer periods of time. Current advances suggest it may be possible to eliminate a number of common
allergens from many foods.

The available global food supply could be increased to support the rapidly growing world population.

Myths and Facts about food biotechnology

Myth: The application of biotechnology to crops, animals and microorganisms to produce

genetically modified food is radically different from traditional crop production systems.

Fact: Biotechnology is an evolution of traditional agricultural methods. Over the past 10,000 years,
people have routinely used their knowledge of plants to improve food production. Biotechnology is the
latest development in the evolution of agricultural methods. Farmers used to rely on plant breeding to
add or eliminate specific genetic traits in a plant. For example, because of plant breeding, corn today
looks nothing like it did one hundred years ago. Although it typically took several growing seasons to
produce a plant that expressed a desired trait, farmers were eventually able to produce crops that:
• were resistant to drought, insect pests or diseases
• possessed stronger stalks to withstand strong winds
• produced higher yields
In more recent years, techniques such as irradiation and mutation of seeds to create changes which
could be selected for desirable traits, as well as specialized techniques to induce crossing between
distantly related plant species have been successfully and safely applied to thousands of varieties of
crops without undergoing anywhere near the scrutiny which has been applied to products of

Genetic modification is actually a more efficient and precise way to achieve the benefits of crop
improvement. Using biotechnology techniques, scientists are now able to pinpoint the specific gene
responsible for a particular trait and then extract or add that gene to a specific plant.

Myth: Foods produced using biotechnology are brand new.

Fact: Foods produced using modern biotechnology have only been available since the mid-1990s.
Modern agricultural biotechnology can be likened to the process that bakers, brewers, vintners and
ranchers have used for centuries when they applied biology to modify genes to make bread, beer, wine
and cheese.

Examples of foods and crops produced using biotechnology that have been approved for food use in
the US include:
• Tomatoes with delayed ripening traits that have better flavor, remain fresh longer and
withstand transport better than traditional tomatoes.
• Soybeans, canola, corn, cotton and potatoes resistant to insects, herbicides or both.
• Squash resistant to a virus that often kills the vegetable on the vine.
• Soybeans and canola that produce cooking oil with less saturated fat.
• Papaya resistant to a virus that causes significant yield losses.

All of these foods have undergone rigorous testing and have proven to be safe to eat. The record of the
past 6 years of safe consumption provides further assurance that the safety evaluations of these
products prior to their introduction have been effective.

Myth: Foods produced using biotechnology have not been established as safe and are not
adequately regulated.

Fact: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization
have established procedures to determine the safety of biotechnology products and these procedures
are met or exceeded by regulatory systems around the world. Countries, such as the United States,
Japan, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Korea, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and even the European
Union have all used their regulatory process to determine the food safety of at least one product of

Myth: Biotechnology cannot relieve world hunger.

Fact: Biotechnology can help alleviate hunger worldwide. In the next 50 years the global population is
expected to double, reaching more than 8 billion people by 2050. Population growth and population
demands for improvements in dietary choice and quality will require the world food supply to increase
at least 250 percent from its current quantity. The amount of land currently committed to food
production - approximately 36 percent of the earth’s cumulative land area – cannot yield the amount of
food needed by this increased population. Although forests could be cleared to obtain needed acreage,
a better approach is to find ways of getting greater crop yield from existing land. Biotechnology can
increase the quantity of the harvest by addressing the factors that traditionally deplete crops such as
pests, weeds, drought and wind. Plants from biotechnology are being bred to withstand these stresses
and therefore increase the proportion of crops that survive and are harvested each year.

Myth: The application of biotechnology only benefits farmers and not consumers.

Fact: Biotechnology can have both direct and indirect benefits to the consumer. Products that have
been introduced to the market have had enhanced flavour and freshness, better nutritional value and
lower saturated fat contents. Indirect benefits include reduced use of pesticide (farmers of
biotechnology-derived cotton use only 10 percent of the pesticides that they used to use against the
damaging bollworm), and more sustainable tillage practices, which address costly environmental
problems like water pollution.
Food biotechnology could have more direct benefits to consumers in the future. It could allow the
production of biodegradable packaging; alternatives to chemical pharmaceuticals; and more healthful
food products (e.g. vegetables with increased quantities of anti-oxidants to reduce cancer risk) fruits as
delivery medium for vaccines for diseases prevalent in some less developed countries.

Myth: Biotechnology was responsible for concerns about the health of laboratory rats after they
were fed genetically modified potatoes.

Fact: During a television program in 1998, Dr. Arpad Pusztai of the Rowett Research Institute in
Aberdeen, Scotland, suggested that after feeding genetically modified potatoes to five rats over a 110-
day period, some showed stunted growth and had impaired immune systems. The biotechnology-
derived potatoes fed to the rats contained a lectin (a glycoprotein) from snowdrops, which is toxic to
some insects.

After publication of these results as a letter in the Lancet, Dr. Pusztai’s experiments were reviewed by
six experts appointed by the Royal Society of the UK. These experts concluded that the work
published in the Lancet was flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis and that no
conclusions could be made from it. The Royal Society found no convincing evidence of adverse effects
of the potatoes and concluded that it would be unjustifiable to draw general conclusions about whether
genetically modified foods are harmful to humans or not.

Furthermore, the potatoes studied by Dr. Pusztai have not been approved and could not be approved in
any country in the world.

Myth: Crops and foods produced using biotechnology will cause people to become more resistant
to antibiotics.

Fact: The US FDA has determined there is no evidence of increased risk of antibiotic resistance in
humans from foods currently in commerce that were developed using biotechnology. In past years,
scientists have used genes derived from bacteria (also known as “selectable markers”) to determine
whether a specific trait has been successfully added or extracted from a plant. On occasion antibiotic
proteins are used as selectable markers raising concerns that the proteins will pass into the food supply
and when consumed, cause people to become resistant to antibiotics. In a thorough review of this
method, the US FDA has determined its safety. It is important to note that even if antibiotic resistance
were to transfer from foods developed with biotechnology to bacteria in humans, the antibiotics
involved in the biotechnology processes are not important to medical or veterinary needs and any
resistance created in humans or animals would still allow the use of antibiotics which are important.
Nevertheless, there is now international agreement that the use of antibiotic marker genes will be phased
out as soon as reliable alternative technologies are developed.

Myth: If foods produced through biotechnology are available in the food supply, people with
allergies will not be able to identify foods to which they may be allergic.

Fact: The US FDA 1992 guidelines requires companies to label an end product if it contains any of the
eight most common food allergens; milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts and soy (and) tree nuts. It
is good practice and standard procedure for foods to be granted approval only when regulatory
authorities are satisfied that a secure mechanism is in place to protect sensitive consumers. In many
countries there are voluntary or mandatory requirements for companies to label their products
identifying the common allergens.
There are no biotechnology-derived foods currently on the market, which contain any of the recognised
common allergens. Indeed, biotechnology may one day provide allergy experts with the means to
remove allergens from many foods that cause allergic reactions, by isolating and removing the allergenic

Myth: The long-term effects of foods produced using biotechnology are unknown.

Fact: From years of research, we know that the benefits are tremendous, with no additional risk. The
scientific consensus is that the risks of food biotechnology products are fundamentally the same as for
other foods. Current science shows that foods made using biotechnology are safe to consume, and safe
for the environment. For this reason, a host of regulatory agencies have determined that these products
are safe to introduce to the food supply.

There is no such thing as “zero risk” for any food; however, foods produced using biotechnology have
all met governments’ most stringent food safety standards. The future is never guaranteed, but years of
research and the absence of harmful evidence indicates the benefits of agricultural biotechnology far
outweigh any risks.

When asked about the anxiety surrounding the application of biotechnology to food in Europe Dr,
James Watson, the scientist who determined the structure of DNA, likened the resistance to the initial
ban on medical biotechnology. If that ban had continued, “it would have stopped us from understanding
cancer and a whole host of things,’ he noted. “To argue that you don’t know what is going to occur is
true about everything in life. People would not get married, have children, do anything…”

It is also noteworthy that in some instances biotechnology increases safety of foods. For example,
biotechnology-derived crops with their own natural insect protection such as Bt corn are less
susceptible to attack by harmful mycotoxin moulds. Thus, stored Bt crops are less likely to develop
harmful concentration of aflatoxins during storage.

Myth: Crops produced using biotechnology will harm the environment.

Fact: Biotechnology is a key element in sustainable agriculture that will benefit the environment. Benefits
include reduced pesticide usage, water and soil conservation and greater safety for workers and the
ecosystem.Many crops – including tomatoes, potatoes, corn and cotton - now have the internal ability
to repel insects. Consequently, fewer applications of pesticide are required. A type of corn used to feed
pigs will reduce the phytic acid in animal waste that causes algae to grow in water supplies. The better
yields from crops using biotechnology will reduce the pressure to clear additional land for farmland.

Myth: The production of crops resistant to certain pests and weeds will lead to the evolution of
“superbugs” and “superweeds” that are resistant to existing methods of pest and weed control.

Fact: No scientific study has suggested that this type of scenario could occur as a result of crops
developed through biotechnology. However, many systems are in place - including crop rotation, hybrid
rotation and integrated pest management - as a precautionary measure to help prevent it from occurring.
Insects and weeds already evolve and develop tolerance or resistance to their environment, so
biotechnology can potentially better manage this evolution of resistance. The potential transfer of traits
by pollen remains the same as ever.

Considerable study is taking place to ensure that strategies are developed and implemented in each
country where insect-protected crops are planted to ensure that insect resistance is managed and
controlled over as long a period as possible. These strategies are being developed specifically for the
agricultural conditions of each country taking into account such factors as crop rotation and alternate
crop and non-crop hosts for the insects.

Myth: Genetically modified corn kills Monarch butterflies.

Fact: In May 1999, Nature magazine published a letter from researchers at Cornell University that
reported findings suggesting further research is needed into the relationship between pollen from select
strains of Bt corn (corn which has been genetically modified to produce a protein to protect against
insects) and the Monarch caterpillar. Since that publication, many university researchers, including
others at Cornell, have stepped forward to stress that the Monarch study did not represent natural

A report from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated that the “data provide a weight
of evidence indicating no unreasonable adverse effects of Bt proteins expressed in plants to non-target
wildlife.” Furthermore, a study from the University of Illinois indicated that Monarch butterflies were not
harmed by Bt pollen in actual field conditions.

As with any scientific issue, several studies are needed before conclusions can be made.

Myth: Biotechnology produced insect resistant corn causes allergy related illnesses in the

Fact: In a news briefing in February 2004, Dr Terje Traavik, a professor of Gene Ecology at the
University of Tromso in Norway announced his finding suggesting that around 50 farmers and
individuals living near the insect resistant corn (Bt corn) field in the Philippines suffered allergy related
illnesses due to exposure to Bt corn pollen. Prior to his announcement, his research data and finding had
not been peer-reviewed as has been the norms in scientific publications.

Dr Nina Gloriani Barzaga, a Professor of Medical Microbiology & Microbial Immunology at the
University of the Philippines Manila; and Director of the Institute of Biotechnology and Molecular
Biology, National Institutes of Health Philippines responded that the insect-toxin protein in the Bt corn
has been assessed for allergenic potential based on established criteria and procedures. This toxin is not
considered an allergen. Many university researches requested Traavik to give other scientists access to
his experimental methods and data to review them.

Myth: Thailand papayas have been found to be widely contaminated with biotechnology
produced plants and as a result Thai farmers at risk of violating US Patent.

Fact: Thai Department of Agriculture inadvertently distributed virus resistant papaya produced using
biotechnology to local farmers. These plants had been tested in containment for testing. Conventionally
bred papaya crops suffer from several diseases and pests. The most widespread disease of papaya is
caused by papaya ringspot virus, affecting papaya production and productivity in many parts of the
world including Asia. Traditional means to control this disease were not very effective and the disease
can be easily and widely spread through insect bites. Furthermore, there is no known papaya variety
tolerant to the disease. Virus resistant papaya produced using biotechnology renders the plant resistant
to the virus. These papaya varieties had been approved for food use in the US since 1997 and Canada
since 2003 following safety assessment, and examinations of nutritional composition, toxicological
implications and allergenic potential by authorities in those countries.
Cornell University that patented the invention related to biotechnology produced virus resistant papaya
will work with Thailand Department of Agriculture to develop a plan to use the papaya technology in
Thailand. Cornell has no desire to charge poor farmers for use of its technology.

Expert opinions on food biotechnology


“Clearly, agricultural biotechnology has real potential as a new tool in the war on hunger”.

Jacques Diouf, Director General FAO, excerpt from The State of Food and Agriculture
2004 report.

“GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are
not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been
shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries
where they have been approved”.

Twenty Questions on Genetically Modified Foods, World Health Organization,

“Biotechnology will spur the second ‘Green Revolution’. .. Biotechnology has shown the world
that quality is possible even without spraying chemicals….”

Sharad Pawar, Union Agriculture Minister of India, a speech given at the conference of
the Federation of Jain Educational Institutes in Jakkasandra, India, November 21, 2004

“There are some 800 million people all over the world who are suffering from hunger and
malnutrition in varying degrees. Society’s moral responsibility to feed these teeming millions is
inexorable, and food biotechnology offers a humane solution since it promises to improve
significantly crop yield and increase resistance to pests and diseases.”

Bishop Jesus Varela, Bishop Emeritus of Sorsogon, at Forum of Scientists, Christian and
Muslim leaders, Quezon City, Philippines, January 2005, quoted in Today newspaper

“Biotechnology or genetically modified food is acceptable to Muslims as long as the processed

is clearly labeled as “free from haram elements.”

Dr. Carmen Abubakar, Dean of the University of the Philippines-Institute of Islamic

Studies at Forum of Scientists, Christian and Muslim leaders, Quezon City, Philippines
quoted in Today newspaper 29.1.05

“My Ministry will do its best to create an enabling environment for biotechnology to flourish in
our country”, Sh Kapil Sibal, Science and Technology Minister of India, inaugural speech at the
International Conference on Agricultural Biotechnology Ushering in the Second Green
Revolution held at the Federation House, Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)
in New Delhi, India, August 2004

“the moral imperative of making genetically modified crops available to small scale farmers who
need them the most”. Radha Singh, Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of
India at the International Conference on Agricultural Biotechnology Ushering in the Second
Green Revolution held at the Federation House, Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry
(FICCI) in New Delhi, India. August 2004.

“The inexpensive protein potato should help to feed the poor population in India, and in
particular to decrease the rate of mortality amongst children”

Govindarajan Padmanaban, Institute of Science, Bangalore, India, sie welt 7.1.03

“Biotechnology continues to be the most rapidly adopted technology in agriculture, due to the
social and economic benefits the crop offers farmers and society, particularly the 5 million
resource-poor farmers in developing countries… biotechnology can significantly alter the lives
of these farmers, and limiting the time they must spend in the field and helping alleviate poverty”

Clive James, Chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of

Agribiotechnology Applications (ISAAA), 2003 Global Status of Biotechnology Crops in
2002 Report.

“.. we know that through biotechnology, foods can be developed to be better tasting, to stay
fresh longer and to be protected from disease and insect pests. It can also improve the
nutritional benefits and make advancements in processing, thus providing a healthier diet to
consumers and a greater availability of foods in all seasons and in greater quantities”

Luis P Lorenzo Jr., Philippines Agriculture Secretary, “Achieving more with less, for the
world” commentary given to US-ASEAN Business Council, Singapore,
October 14, 2003.

“as the highest advisory and recognition body of the government of the Republic of the
Philippines on science and technology - as well as other scientists undersigned believe and
support the application of modern biotechnology as a tool to enhance agricultural productivity;
to feed and improve the lives of the increasing population; and to address environmental
degradation, hunger and poverty.”

Extract from Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology Position Statement
on Biotechnology

“These varieties have 50% higher yields, mature 30-50% days earlier, are substantially richer in
protein, are far more disease and drought tolerant, resist insect pests and can even out-compete
weeds… This imitative shows the enormous potential for biotechnology to improve food
security in Africa, Asia and Latin America”

Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, quoted in

Wall Street Journal Europe 25.7.01

“Realizing that the applications of biotechnology could have far-reaching effect and favourable
impact in the developing countries, many of which suffer from large and rapidly increasing
populations, chronic food-shortages and malnutrition, poor health, and profound environmental

Extract from the Islamic Academy of Sciences Rabat Declaration on Biotechnology and
Genetic Engineering for Development in the Islamic World, adopted in Morocco on the 8
Sha’aban 1422 24th October 2001

Note, haram generally means taboo, but in case of food, it refers to forbidden ingredients
like swine extracts, blood, wine and other elements that Muslims are barred from

“The stark reality is that we’ve got to increase world food production by 50% by 2025 and
we’ll have to do it with less land, less water, less labour and fewer chemicals. I think genetic
engineering will be a vital tool”

Gurdev Khush, International rice Research Institute, Philippines, quoted in South China
Morning Post, 19.7.01

“I believe the world will be able to produce the food needed to feed [its] projected population
of 8.3 billion by 2025. But it cannot be attained without permitting use of technologies now
available, or without research, including biotechnology and recombinant DNA.”

Dr. Norman Borlaug 1970 Nobel Prize Recipient “We Need Biotech to Feed the World”
(Wall Street Journal Editorial, December 6, 2000).

“Responsible biotechnology is not the enemy, starvation is. Without adequate food supplies at
affordable prices, we cannot expect world health or peace.”

Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States.


“Modern biotechnology is not a silver bullet for achieving food security, but, used in conjunction
with other agricultural research, it may be a powerful tool in the fight against poverty. It has the
potential to help enhance agricultural productivity in developing countries in a way that further
reduces poverty, improves food security and nutrition, and promotes sustainable use of natural
resources. Solutions to the problems facing small farmers in developing countries could benefit
both farmers and consumers.”

Gabrielle J. Persley, Co-Editor for the Asian Development Bank Report on

Agbiotechnology and Asia’s Poor. 2001

“The challenge for the agricultural scientist during the next decades is very clear. Double the
food production by 2025 and triple it by 2050, on less per-capita land, with less water, under
increasingly challenging environment conditions. The way to achieve those goals – perhaps the
only way – is through the use of genetically modified crops.”

Manju Sharma, head of the Indian government’s Department of Biotechnology,

“Engineering Crops in a Needy World,” National Public Radio.

“Although the rate of population growth is steadily decreasing, the increase in absolute numbers
of people to be fed may be such that the carrying capacity of agricultural lands could soon be
reached given current technology. New technologies, such as biotechnologies, if properly
focused, offer a responsible way to enhance agriculture productivity for now and the future,”

Excerpt from a statement issued by the FAO Committee on Agriculture, 15th Session,
Rome, Jan. 25-29, 1999.

“We have helped feed the world using breakthroughs such as the production of higher yielding
wheat, rice, corn and potatoes. This has been done by treating agricultural technology
advances as a benefit to be shared as widely as possible, including with poor farmers in
developing countries. Given the same commitment and approach to the gene revolution, it can
be part of the solution to the food and environmental challenges of the 21st century.”

M.S. Swaminathan, winner of the World Food Prize in 1987, International Herald
Tribune, October 23, 1999.

“If the technology is as powerful as many of us think it is, it should overcome many of the
production challenges in third-world countries and also assure that the benefits are broadly
distributed and reach those people in greatest need.”

Gary Toenniessen, Ph.D., Deputy Director for Agriculture Sciences, Rockefeller

Foundation, which hopes to increase rice production in Asia by 20 percent through the
use of biotechnology without degrading the environment or reducing farm incomes.

“It is important to increase yield on land that is already intensely cultivated. However, increasing
production is only one part of the equation. Income generation, particularly in low-income
areas, together with the more effective distribution of food stocks, are equally, if not more,
important. GM technologies are relevant to both these elements of food security.”

Report prepared jointly by the Royal Society of London, U.S. National Academy of
Sciences, Indian National Academy of Sciences, Mexican National Academy of Sciences
and the Third World Academy of Sciences (July 2000).

“Through judicious development, biotechnology can also address environmental degradation,

hunger, and poverty in the developing world by providing improved agricultural productivity and
greater nutritional security.”

Petition Signed by over 3,000 Scientists Globally in Support of Biotechnology (May


“Biotechnology will make farmers wealthier, especially in developing countries where they need
to grow more food per hectare. It will be good for society. It will make food more nutritious
and healthier. And, it will be good for the environment in reducing reliance on chemicals and in
using less land to grow the same food for our 6 billion people in the world.”

Dr. Patrick Moore, Former President of Greenpeace (Thai Television (Channel 11),
September 4, 2000).

“Our group concluded that the revolution in molecular biology provides the developing world
with some important new tools for feeding and caring for its people. It will be critical to use the
best science to make wise choices with respect to the application of these technologies.”

Dr. Bruce Alberts, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, discussing
“Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture,” a report issued July 2000 by the U.S.
National Academy of Science with the Royal Society of London, the Brazilian Academy of
Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Sciences, the
Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Third World Academy of Sciences

“For the world’s developing countries, one of the greatest risks of genetic engineering is not
being able to use this technology at all.”

Calestous Juma, a native of Kenya who serves as special adviser to Harvard University’s
Center of International Development as reported in “Engineering the Harvest: Biotech
Could Help Fight Hunger in the World’s Poorest Nations, But Will It,” U.S. News, March
13, 2000.

“In China, the public generally accepts commercialization of transgenic plants and most people
[believe] that agrobiotechnology is a powerful tool for promoting agricultural production and
[providing] enough food for the world, especially for developing countries in the future.”

Zhang-Liang Chen, Peking University (China) OECD Conference on the Scientific and
Health Aspects of Genetically Modified Foods (February 28 - March 1, 2000).

“The development of local and regional agriculture is the key to addressing both hunger and low
income. Genetically improved food is “scale neutral”, in that a poor rice farmer with one acre in
Bangladesh can benefit as much as a large farmer in California.”

Professor C. S. Prakash, Director, Center for Plant Biotechnology Research, Tuskegee

University, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dec. 5, 1999.

“We cannot turn back the clock on agriculture and only use methods that were developed to
feed a much smaller number of people. It took some 10,000 years to expand food production
to the current level of about 5 billion tons per year. By 2025, we will have to nearly double
current production again. This increase cannot be accomplished unless farmers across the
world have access to current high yielding crop production methods as well as new
biotechnological breakthroughs that can increase the yields, dependability and nutritional quality
of our basic food crops.”

Dr. Norman Borlaug, 1990 Nobel Prize Laureate for Peace, Plant Physiology, Oct. 2000.

“We know it is possible for nutritional value and quality to be enhanced. We know a number of
things now, but there may be even greater benefits in the future. We can be sure that biotech
foods are safe, and I think that’s very important. It’s important to me—as a mother and as a
grandmother—as well as a dietitian, to feel secure about our food supply.”

Edith Hogan, RD, spokesperson, The American Dietetic Association.

“I have absolutely no anxiety…. I am worried about a lot of things, but not about modified
food. To argue that you don’t know what is going to occur is true about everything in life.
People wouldn’t get married, have children, do anything….”

James Watson, Ph.D., co-discoverer of DNA structure and Nobel Laureate, The Daily
Telegraph of U.K. February 25, 1999.

“We are increasingly encouraged that the advantages of genetic engineering of plants and
animals are greater than the risks. The risks should be carefully followed through openness,
analysis and controls, but without a sense of alarm. We cannot agree with the position of some
groups that say it is against the will of God to meddle with the genetic make-up of plants and

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, Vice President, Pontifical Academy for Life, The Vatican (St. Louis
Review, October 22, 1999).

“I’m quite confident that, when the public is properly informed about biotech, they will realize
that the positive benefits are far and away greater than any potential negative benefits. In fact,
we don’t really know of any negative aspects for GMOs but we do know of many positive
ones, both socially and environmentally.”

Dr. Patrick Moore, Former President of Greenpeace (New Scientist, December 25, 1999).

“To date, [the Australian/New Zealand Food Authority] has found no evidence that GM foods
are less safe than their conventionally produced counterparts – a finding supported by food
agencies around the world.”

The Australian/New Zealand Food Authority Press Statement (August 31, 2000).

“There is no evidence that genetically engineered foods on the market are not safe to eat….
genetic engineering could lead to consumer benefits like lower cholesterol and increased
resistance to cancer.”

Consumer Reports, September 1999


Additional Resources on Food Biotechnology
Asian resources- Websites National Center genetic Engineering and
biotechnology in Thailand, includes discussion
Asian Food Information Centre. board.
www.afic.org www.biotec.or.th

International Service for the Acquisition of Plant Genetic Engineering laboratory of

Agribiological Applications-provides a status Kasetsart University in Thailand.
of the field in the developing countries of Asia, www.pgeu.biotec.or.th
South America, and Africa - countries that
comprise the Global Knowledge Center on Biotechnology education sites
Crop Biotechnology (KC).
www.isaaa.org/kc Biotechnology Education Resources - this is a
good set of links to education sites.
Biotechnology Information Centers in Asia. www.nal.usda.gov/bic
www.safetybio.com National Center for Biotechnology Education
Philippines: (UK).
www.searca.org/~bic/bicweb/index.htm www.ncbe.reading.ac.uk/
ASEAN-Korea Biotechnology Information
Network: The Food Future site (UK), The Food and
www.asean.kribb.re.kr/ase1.html Drink Federation Food Future program aims
Malaysia: to improve public understanding of genetic
www.bic.org.my/index.htm modification. The program has initiated wider
Indonesia: discussion of the technology - the perceived
www.indobic.biotrop.org benefits and disadvantages as well as the
ethical and moral concerns.
TATA Energy Research Institute, India. www.foodfuture.org.uk/
European Initiative for Biotechnology
Genetic Modification Advisory Education.
Committee, Singapore. www.eibe.info
International Rice Research Institute, Los The John Innes Centre. “Biotechnology
Banos The Philippines. in our Food Chain” (UK) (in press).
www.cgiar.org/irri/ www.jic.bbsrc.ac.uk/exhibitions/bio-future

Malaysia Agricultural research and TransgenicCrops / Colorado State University.

Development Institute. Transgenic Crops: An Introduction and
http://www.mardi.my/ Resource Guide.

General Agricultural Resources, FAQ and links from the Food

Biotechnology sites Marketing Institute on Bioengineering
The Biosafety Information Network and
Advisory Service (BINAS) is a service of the FAQs, links etc. from CropGen,UK.
United Nations Industrial Development www.cropgen.org
Organization (UNIDO). BINAS monitors
global developments in regulatory issues in AgBiotechNet. The online service for
biotechnology. agricultural biotechnology, delivers what you
www.binas.unido.org/binas need for plant and animal biotechnology. Get
up-to-date information on cloning, genomics,
Links and articles from the site hosted by Dr. genetic engineering, in vitro culture, biosafety,
C.S. Prakash, an advocate of intellectual property rights and all key issues in
agbiotechnology solutions for the developing agricultural biotechnology through news,
world. reviews, abstracts, reports, links, book
www.agbioworld.org chapters and much more.
Articles, GM database and links from
Agriculture and Biotechnology Strategies, European Federation of Biotechnology.
Canada. www.efbweb.org
National Consumers Coalition (USA). Links,
Agricultural Groups Concerned about articles etc. on agricultural biotechnology and
Resources and the Environment (AGCare) food security.
(Canada). www.foodstuff.org
The Website of Green Peace Founder
Food Biotechnology Communications Dr. Patrick Moore.
Network (Canada). www.greenspirit.com
Links to agbiotechnology and food
Biotechnology Information Centre biotechnology sites.
(United States Department of Agriculture). www.nal.usda.gov/bic/www.html

Agri-Food Risk Management and

Communications (Canada)- Food Safety

Biotechnology Industry Association -

Food and Agriculture Links.

US Department of Agriculture’s site on

Agbiotechnology with links to regulations, etc.

Additional Reading

Columbia University AgBioForum publishes

articles, which enhance the on-going dialogue
on the economics and management of
agricultural biotechnology. The purpose of
AgBioForum is to provide unbiased, timely
information and new ideas leading to socially
responsible and economically efficient
decisions in science, public policy and private
strategies pertaining to agricultural

Institute of Food Science & Technology.

General Discussion on Food Biotechnology.

Applying the precautionary principle to

Genetic Modified Crops.

GM plants debate including review of data on

possible toxicity of GM potatoes (Dr Arpad
Puzstai experiments)

Agricultural biotechnology: What is all the fuss


Transgenic Plants and Biosafety: Science,

Misconceptions and Public Perceptions.

Defining the Precautionary Principle by Julian

Morris. Science, technology and innovation

The International Food Information Council

covers a broad range of food safety and
nutrition issues, including biotechnology.


Glossary of Terms

Antibiotic-resistance marker gene

A gene that produces a protein that allows only plants containing that gene to grow in the presence
of a specific antibiotic.

A technique used to eliminate an undesirable genetic trait from a newly developed hybrid plant. The
hybrid plant is bred with a closely related plant that does not have the undesirable trait with the goal
of eliminating the trait in the offspring plant. Generally, backcrossing requires multiple generations of
breeding because newly developed hybrids may carry many undesirable traits.

A component of DNA made up of nitrogen and carbon atoms in a ring structure. There are two
classes of bases: purines (adenine and guanine) and pyrimidines (cytosine and thymine). The bases
pair in the DNA double helix.

The application of living organisms to develop new products.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, a compound of deoxyribose (a sugar), phosphoric acid and nitrogen bases.
Each DNA molecule consists of two strands in the shape of a double helix. DNA is responsible for
the transfer of genetic information from one generation to the next.

Microscopic rod shaped elements in the nucleus of the cell. Chromosomes, composed of DNA,
contain the complete genetic information of the organism.

A chemical used to control fungi that cause plant disease.

A portion of a chromosome that contains the hereditary information for the production of a protein.

Genetic modification or genetic engineering

The technique of removing, modifying or adding genes to a living organism.

A substance used to kill plants especially weeds.

A plant resulting from a cross between parents that are related, but not genetically identical or the
offspring of two different species.

The process of breeding hybrid plants.

A substance used to control certain populations of insects.

A method of farming without tillage.

The unintentional breeding of a domestic crop with a related species.

A substance used to control pests, such as insects, weeds or microorganisms.

Plant biotechnology
The addition of selected traits to plants through insertion of DNA into plant genes to develop new
plant varieties.

A small piece of DNA found outside the chromosome in bacteria. Plasmids can be used as a tool to
insert new genetic material into microorganisms or plants.

Polymers of amino acids. The uniqueness of proteins is a function of the length of the polymer and
the sequence of amino acids within the polymers.

Restriction enzymes
Enzymes that can ‘cut’ a gene out of a piece of DNA.

Cultivation using hoeing and ploughing.

A microorganism that consists of protein and nucleic acid.

History of Food Improvements and Developments

People have been trying whatever they can, to improve the quantity and quality of their food and drink
for centuries. As soon as the first humans decided to stay in one place and grow their own food, as
opposed to roaming around and gathering whatever they could, they began seeking ways to improve its
quality and increase its quantity.

8000 BC Ancient Egyptians master milling by using stone rollers to crush and grind grain into meal
and, eventually, create flour.

2500 BC The Egyptians domesticate geese, force-feeding them to make them bigger and better
tasting when cooked.

2000 BC Egyptians and Sumerians learn fermentation, baking, brewing and cheese making.
People had been eating naturally fermented foods since the Neolithic Age, but had
never under stood what was actually going on. They wouldn’t for another 38 centuries.

500 BC Mediterranean people develop marinating. They soak fish guts in salty solution, then
leave them in the sun until they ferment, producing a strong smelling liquid. At about the
same time, people across Europe master the preservative technique of salting, which
leads to the development of curing and pickling. Salt thus becomes a major commodity
in international trade.

300 BC The Greeks develop grafting techniques, leading to the creation of orchards and groves.

1500’s Acidic cooking techniques - fermenting foods, then spicing and salting them - come to
the fore, leading to the development of such foods as sauerkraut and yogurt.

1861 Louis Pasteur develops his technique of pasteurization, in which he protects food by
heating it to kill dangerous microbes, removing the air and sealing it in a container.

1865 Augustinian Monk Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, presents his laws of
heredity to the Natural Science Society in Brunn, Austria. But the scientific world, agog
over Darwin’s new theory of evolution, pays no attention to Mendel’s discovery.

1870 The Navel orange is introduced into the United States from Brazil.

1876 Interspecific and intergeneric crossbreeding.

1900 The science of genetics is born when Mendel’s work is rediscovered by three scientists
– Hugo DeVries, Erich Von Tschermak and Carl Correns – each independently
checking scientific literature for precedents to their own “original” work.

1922 Farmers first purchase hybrid seed corn by cross breeding two corn plants. Hybrid
corn helps account for a 600 percent increase in U.S. production between 1930 and

1953 James Watson and Francis Crick define the structure of DNA, which shows how cells
in all living things store, duplicate and pass genetic information from generation to

1973 Scientists Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer move a gene – a specific piece of DNA-
from one organism to another.

1990 The US government approves the first food product enhanced by biotechnology-
chymosin-an enzyme used in cheese making. The United Kingdom approves for use the
first food product enhanced by biotechnology – a yeast used in baking.

1993 FDA approves the use of bovine somatotropin (BST) to increase milk yields.

1994 The first whole food produced using modern biotechnology – the FlavrSavr? tomato -
receives FDA approval and enters the marketplace.

1996 Biotechnology – enhanced soy, corn and grain crops are sold commercially for the first

1996 Genetically modified cotton is grown commercially in China.

2000 Global area of biotechnology crops reaches 44.2 million hectares.

2001 Indonesia grows genetically modified cotton.


Regulatory Agencies by Country


Responsible Ministry / Agency

The products of genetic manipulation technologies at present are subject to stringent regulatory
controls, which reflect the end-use, proposed for the product. These regulatory agencies include:
• Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA);
• the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) for
industrial chemicals;
• the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) for foods intended for human
consumption; and
• The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for therapeutic goods.

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) is also involved where a product of genetic
manipulation is to be imported into Australia.

All of these systems are underpinned by the work of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator

The OGTR is part of the Therapeutic Goods Administration within the Australian Government
Department of Health and Aging.

The OGTR will work with other regulatory bodies to ensure the consistent application of standards,
and to harmonize safety assessments across all systems of regulation.
The OGTR administers the Commonwealth Gene Technology Act 2000 which took effect on 21 June

This legislation was developed in consultation with all Australian jurisdictions over a number of years to
establish a nationally consistent regulatory system for gene technology.

Its objective is to protect the health and safety of people, and the environment, by identifying risks
posed by or as a result of gene technology, and managing those risks by regulating certain dealings with
genetically modified organisms.

The Act defines gene technology as any technique for the modification of genes or other genetic
material, but does not include:
a. sexual reproduction; or
b. homologous recombination; or
c. any other technique specified in the regulations.

The main features of the Act include:

1. Prohibition of anyone dealing with a GMO (eg. for research, manufacture, production, commercial
release and import) unless the dealing is:
a. Licensed by the Regulator for contained use or intentional release into the environment
b. Notifiable Low Risk Dealing (NLRD) or exempt dealing eg. contained work which has been
demonstrated to pose minimal risk to workers, the general public and the environment,
c. on the Register of GMOs.

2. Establishment of a statutory officer (the Gene Technology Regulator) to make decisions under the

3. Establishment of the Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee (GTTAC), the Gene
Technology Ethics Committee (GTEC), and the Gene Technology Community Consultative
Committee GTCCC);

4. Establishment of a process to assess risks to human health and the environment associated with
various dealings with GMOs, including opportunities for public input;

5. Extensive powers to allow monitoring and enforcement of the legislation; and

6. A centralised, publicly available database of all GMOs and GM products approved in Australia (the
Record of GMO and GM product dealings).

While some GM products are already regulated by agencies such as the Therapeutic Goods
Administration (TGA), Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ); and the Australian
Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), with the establishment of the OGTR, all GM
products and dealings with GMOs will be regulated by the OGTR under the current legislation.

A Gene Technology Ministerial Council with representatives from the Commonwealth and every State
and Territory has also been established to provide broad oversight of the implementation of the
regulatory system.


Responsible Ministry / Agency

Safety Administration Office for Agricultural Biological Genetic Engineering. This office is under the
Ministry of Agriculture. It oversees the implementation of regulations regarding agricultural
biotechnology, including for plants, animals, and microorganisms.

The Ministry of Public Health. This Ministry has overall responsibility for implementing national policies
on food safety. Its technical and advisory body is the Institute of Food Safety Control and Inspection.
Ministries of Agriculture, Commerce, Railways and Foreign Trade also have certain sections dealing
with biotechnology. Ministries of agriculture, commerce, railways and foreign trade also have certain
food safety management functions.

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• Safety Administration Implementation Regulation on Agricultural Biological Genetic
• Safety Administration Regulation on Genetic Engineering.

National Focal Point

National Environmental Protection Agency
Chief of Conservation Division
Xue Dayuan
Email: ghbnj@njnet.ihep.ac.cn

Safety Administration for Agricultural Biological Genetic Engineering

Fang Xiangdong
Email: kjsjhch@agri.gov.cn


Responsible Ministry / Agency

Ministry of Science and Technology - Department of Biotechnology - overall responsibility for the
application of biosafety guidelines and regulations.

Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation - guides institutional biosafety committees. There is also a
Monitoring and Evaluation Committee to monitor field trials.

Ministry of Environment and Forests - Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) - authorizes
the field testing of transgenic crops as well as other R&D efforts involving genetically modified

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• The Indian Recombinant DNA Safety Guidelines and Regulations.
• Guidelines for Toxicity and Allergenicity Evaluation of Transgenic Seeds, Plants and Plant

National Focal Point

Ministry of Environment and Forests
K.P.S. Chauhan,
Fax: 91-11-4361704

Department of Biotechnology
Advisor: P.K. Ghosh
Email: pkghosh@dbt.nic.in

Krishi Anusandhan Bhavan,
Email: bkc@icar.delhi.nic.in


Responsible Ministry / Agency

The Ministry of Agriculture - Agency for Agricultural Research and Development - responsibilities over
the assessment, approval, and monitoring of agri-biotechnology R&D activities.

The Biosafety and Food Safety Commission - formed in 1999 to assist the Ministry of Agriculture in
developing and implementing biosafety and food safety policies and procedures in relation to genetically
modified agricultural products. It has twenty-one members and is chaired by the Director General of
the Agency for Agricultural Research and Development. It is responsible for implementing biosafety and
food safety policies and procedures in relation to genetically modified agricultural products. Depending
upon the nature/focus of the technology, agri-biotech R&D applications are handled by the Director
Generals of the animal husbandry, fishery, crop and horticulture, plantation, and quarantine divisions as
well as the National Committee on Genetic Resources.

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• The Provisions on Biosafety of Genetically Engineered Agricultural Biotechnology

National Focal Point

Agency for Agricultural Research and Development
Director: Ahmad Suryana
Email: aard@wasantara.net.id

Research Institute for Food Crop Biotechnology

Director: Sutrisno

Ministry of Agriculture
International Cooperation Bureau
Email: lto:farm_ina@indo.net.id

Central Research Institute for Food Foods

Director: Djoko Damardjati
Email: crifc@calrec-aard.wasantara.net.id

Research Institute for Food Crop Biotechnology

Technical Expert: Mohammed Herman
Email: mherman@indo.net.id


Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• Guidelines for Application of Recombinant DNA Organisms in Agriculture, Forestry,
Fisheries, the Food Industry and Other Related Industries.
• Guidelines for Industrial Application of Recombinant DNA Technology.
• Guidelines for Recombinant DNA Experiment.

Responsible Ministry / Agency
Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment - The Genetic Modification Advisory Committee
responsible for establishing, implementing, and monitoring guidelines for biotechnology. Different sub-
committees handle different sectors (i.e. agriculture, health, and fisheries). The Department of
Agriculture, on the advice of GMAC, issues permits for the field testing/planting of GM plants.

Ministry of Health - Division of Food Quality Control oversees food safety matters.

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• Release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into the environment.
• The Plant Quarantine Act (1976) and the Agricultural Pests and Noxious (Import/Export)
Regulations (1981) - govern the import and export of plants and plant products. Import
permits are required from the Director General of the Agriculture Department.

• Food Act 1983 and Food Regulations (1985) - governs aspects of food quality control,
including import/export procedures, standards and labeling.

National Focal Point

Crop Protection and Plant Quarantine Division
Department of Agriculture
Director: Asna Booty Othman
Email: pktpt@pop.moa.my

Food Quality Control Division

Ministry of Health
Director: HJH. Harrison Aziz Shahabudin
Email: harrison@dph.gov.my

Biotechnology Center
Malaysia Agricultural Research and Development Institute
Uni Kalsom Abu Bakar
Email: uab@mardi.my

New Zealand

Responsible Ministry / Agency

The responsible ministry is the Ministry for the Environment (Hazardous Substances and New
Organisms Project) which delegates to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).

The GMO Interim Assessment Group (and/or Advisory Committees for Genetically Modified
Organisms) undertakes biosafety reviews and advises the Minister for the Environment.

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.
• The New Zealand Guidelines for Field Testing GMOS.

Contact Points
Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), Ministry for the Environment
PO Box 10362, 84 Boulcott St, Wellington, New Zealand
Phone: ** 4 498 74 00, Fax: ** 4 471 01 95


Responsible Ministry / Agency

The Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) - The GMAC was established in 1999 under
the National Science and Technology Board. It comprises representatives from different Ministries and
Research Institutes. Besides the design and implementation of biosafety guidelines for research,
commercialization, and labeling of GMOs this committee is responsible for assessing applications for
introduction, monitoring and use of GMOs and GM products. It also has the mandate to conduct a
biotechnology public awareness campaign. The Food Control Department of the Ministry of the
Environment has administrative oversight for food safety management and policy. The Agri-Food and
Veterinary Authority (AVA) has responsibilities for the regulation and safety of primary foods.

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• The Environmental and Public Health Act (1970), the Sale of Food Act (1973) and the
Food Regulation (1974).
• Singapore Guidelines on the Release of Agriculture-Related Genetically Modified
Organisms- these Guidelines provide a framework for the approval procedure and the
assessment of risks to human health and the environment. Of the deliberate introduction of
GM plants animals, fishes insects, micro organisms and vaccines used in agriculture, as well
as primary food such as meat, eggs, fish, vegetables and fruit. (HTML file)

National Focal Point

GMAC Secretariat
Dr. Yvonne Chow
Email: Yvonne_Chow@nstb.gov.sg

South Korea

Responsible Ministry / Agency

Ministry of Environment. Ministry of Health and Welfare (Guideline for the Gene-Recombinant
Research). Ministry of Science and Technology (Biotechnology Promotion Law and its Regulation)
NIER (National Institute of Environmental Research). KRIBB (Korea Research Institute of Bioscience
and Biotechnology). NIH (National Institute of Health) -Safety assessment for Human Health and
Genetically Modified Micro-organisms. KFDA (Korea Food and Drug Administration) - Safety
assessment and Management of foods, food ingredients and Pharmaceuticals.

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• Environmental Safety Management of LMO Law will be available soon.
• Biotechnology Promotion Law.
• Regulation for the implementation of Biotechnology Promotion Law.
• Guideline for research involving recombinant DNA molecules (The Ministry of Health and
Welfare Notification No. 1997-22).

National Focal Point

Environment Cooperation Div. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government Complex Building, 77 Sejongro, Chongro-ku
Seoul, Korea


Responsible Ministry / Agency

The Council of Agriculture (COA) - reviews and supervises R&D activity related to agri-
biotechnology, as well as for plant and animal quarantine. There is a Biosafety Research Committee,
which advises COA on guidelines and legislation of GMOs. It includes representatives from the
Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and the National Science Council, and
several universities.
Department of Health - monitoring and regulation of food safety

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• There is no specific regulation for GMO products. The Taiwan Food Sanitation Law,
which was revised in 1995, provides the framework for food related regulations. New

regulations are being prepared, which are likely to go into place at the end of 2000. This
Law closely resembles those of Japan. It is available at the Department of Health web site.
• The Field Trials Regulations for GMO Research on Plants and Animals (1998) require that
research be carried out only in COA approved experimental plots, greenhouses and

It is expected that that the guidelines for rDNA experiments will be implemented mid 2000. The
Council of Agriculture has prepared a draft of these guidelines. They are similar to the guidelines of the
National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control in the U.S.

National Focal Point

Dept. of Health, Bureau of Food Sanitation
Director: Chen Shu-Kongr
Fax: 886-2-23929723

Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, Council of

Director General: Lee Ching-Lung


Responsible Ministry / Agency

Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives collaborating with National Center
for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), National Science and Technology Development
Agency (NSTDA).

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• The Thai Draft Guidelines on Contained Uses of GMOs.
• Biosafety Guidelines in Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology for Field Work and Planned
• Biosafety Guidelines in Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology for Laboratory Work .

National Focal Point

Thailand Biodiversity Center
Dr. Sutat Sriwatanapongse
539/2 Gypsum Metropolitan Tower, 15th Fl. Sri-Ayudhya Road, Rajdhevee, Bangkok
Email: sutatsr@biotec.or.th
Phone: +66 2 6425322 thru 31 ext.103
Fax: +66 2 2488303 thru 5

The Philippines

Responsible Ministry / Agency

National Committee on Biosafety in the Philippines (NCBP). Department of Science and Technology

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• Guidelines on planned releases of genetically manipulated Organisms (GMOs) and
potentially harmful exotic species.

• Philippine Biosafety Guidelines.

• The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (R.A. 3720) - provides for food safety measures,
standards, and labeling, implemented by the Bureau of Food and Drugs.

National Focal Point

Dept. of Science and Technology Estrella F. Albastro
Email: efa@agham.dost.gov.ph

Undersec. for Research and Development

Rogelio A. Panlasigui
Email: rap@agham.dost.gov.ph

Office of the Secretariat

J.F.L. Estacio
Fax: 63-2-8372743

Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and
Executive Director: Patricio S. Faylon
Email: psfaylon@ultra.pcarrd.dost.gov.ph


Responsible Ministry / Agency

A State Council on Biosafety is being formed by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and
Environment, with the role of implementing biosafety polices. The overall coordination of biosafety
regulations is under this Ministry, including the development of guidelines and inspection. The Ministry
of Agriculture and Rural Development will implement the development of biosafety guidelines applied to

The Ministry of Industry will implement guidelines with respect to the food manufacturing industry.

Other agencies involved in the preparation and oversight of guidelines include the Ministry of Health
Care (for food safety aspects), the National Center for Variety Evaluation and Seed Certification, and
the National Agency for Plant and Animal Quarantine.

Relevant Laws / Regulations / Rules

• Biosafety Regulations for GMOs and Their Products (Draft).
• The Law for Hygiene and Health Care provides the basic provisions for food safety. A
National Food Law is currently under preparation with guidance from the Ministry of

National Focal Point

Institute of Biotechnology
Director: Le Tran Binh
Email: binh@ibt.ac.vn

Department of Agricultural Science and Technology

Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment
Truong Dinh Khang
Fax: 84-4-8252733

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

Agri. Genetics Institute
Le Minh Hong
Fax: 84-4343196

Review of Regulations on Food Labeling

Genetically modified foods were first used in the food industry in the early 1990s, with the commercialization
of a variety of genetically modified ingredients (e.g. chymosin and brewer’s yeast). Beginning in 1995
genetically modified crops were introduced in a number of countries and then exported to many consumer
markets around the world. Realizing the extensive trade of GM foods and food products, many consumers
are concerned about what they are consuming. They want to have a choice about what they consume and
hence demand labeling of genetically modified foods.

The review of regulations for the labeling of GM foods in various countries illustrates that food labeling
requirements differ considerably from country to country. There are two schools of thought regarding the
mandatory labeling of GM foods. The first school of thought is that consumers have a right to information
and hence labels are required to allow them to make an informed decision regardless of whether a GM
food has been assessed as safe prior to being permitted onto the market. The second is that labeling is
generally not required because an approved GM food is as safe as other foods. The exception to this is
where a GM food has altered characteristics (e.g. composition or nutritional changes, changes in natural
toxicants, or contained factors known to cause allergic responses) when compared to its conventional

In terms of regulatory outcomes, adherence to the first school of thought will lead to the adoption of
mandatory labeling of GM foods to facilitate informed consumer choice. Australia and New Zealand,
Japan and the EU are among countries who have adopted mandatory labeling requirements for GM food.
On the other hand Canada and the United States require the mandatory labeling of GM Food only where
the approved GM food has altered characteristics.

Table below presents the status of national rules for labeling GM foods.

1. Agrifood Awareness Australia, Biotech Bulletin 8: Global GM Food Labeling Laws.
2. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, Report on the Review of Labeling of Genetically Modified

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted by the
Conference of the Parties to the Convention on 29 January 2000. The objective of the Protocol is to
ensure an adequate level of protection in the use of genetically modified organisms that may have adverse
effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, as well as taking into account
possible risks to human health. Countries that intend to ratify the Protocol must ensure that they have
appropriate biosafety measures in place such as an adoption of a national biosafety regulatory framework.
The Protocol entered into force on 11 September 2003 after the 50th country ratified the Protocol.

Updated list of countries that have ratified the Protocol can be found in www.biodiv.org/biosafety/

Food Biotechnology Asia Food Information Centre


International Service for the

Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications


October 2001