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6-Regulation: Adviser to the Malaysian Chef Minister wants tight GMO assessments

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TITLE:  Tham Wants Tight Monitoring On GMO Before Planting
SOURCE: Bernama, Malaysia
DATE:   11 Aug 2005

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Tham Wants Tight Monitoring On GMO Before Planting

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 11 (Bernama) -- Science Adviser to the Chief Minister
Datuk Tham Nyip Shen opined that each Genetically Modified Organisms
(GMO) variety has to go through proper monitoring and biosafety
assessment before being approved for planting and commercialisation.

He said this was necessary as it was not known whether the consumption of
a particular GMO product would have adverse effects on human health.

"As the state of Sabah is commencing to conduct biotechnology research to
improve some of its local plant varieties to produce better quality food
or to clone new breeds of animals, the regulatory issues of monitoring
and enforcement of GMOs must be in place.

"This means that research leading to the production of GMOs must be
conducted in a proper manner, and tested out in field trials before
releasing to the environment with approval from the relevant
authorities," he said.

Tham was speaking at the launch of a seminar on "Current Issues on
Genetically Modified Organisms at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS)
main campus in Likas, near here Thursday.

Citing a recent case where a greenpeace Chinese research team had
discovered that unapproved GMO rice was being sold over the past two
years and grown illegally in the Chinese province of Hubei, Tham said
testing had confirmed the presence of genetically engineered DNA in 19
samples and 18 of which were confirmed as Bt Rice, a genetically
enginereed variety of rice to produce an inbuilt pesticide.

"Such incidents should be prevented as it is still unclear whether this
rice is safe for human consumption.

"And countries suffering from GMO rice contamination will also experience
market rejection," he added.

On Malaysia's context, Tham said the Ministry of Natural Resources and
Environment and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation was
instrumental in drafting the biosafety law which regulates the research
and development, field trials, release and commercialisation of GMOs.

He said issues on GMO had been widely discussed at the national and
international levels but "Malaysians are relatively new to food or
products produced through genetic modifications or biotechnology".

As such, Tham urged UMS to play an important role to generate interest
and promote public awareness on new frontiers which concerns the state's
well being, particularly in the area of Biotechnology.


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