My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

OTGV #59 - GM Food

Broadcast Date: 07/06/04

The European Union has lifted its controversial 1998 ban on Genetically-Modified or GM food.

Environmentalists called GM food "Frankenstein food" as these are plants that have been tweaked genetically to be more parasite and climate resistant or provide either greater yields or better taste.

The biotech companies and most governments say GM food is safe and it'll feed the world's hunger.

But consumers have reacted suspiciously saying that the long-term health risks are yet unknown.

Hi, Welcome to On the Grapevine with me, Chong Ching Liang.

As far as GM-food is concerned, a recent workshop for regional stakeholders is significant.

CEO of the Agrifood and Veterinary Authority of Singapore Dr Ngiam Tong Tau.

"The First Asean workshop for testing for genetically modified food is an important step for Asean members to have a deeper understanding of GM-food. It is also necessary for us to have methods to detect GM food coming into this region. That's why that we are very glad that at this workshop there are experts from different countries here to inform us in the advances in testing for genetically modified food."

As the world heads into an era dominated by biotechnology, the issue of quality control and food safety becomes crucial, hence GM testing is now considered indispensable in many regions.

In regions like Europe and Japan where there're great consumer suspicions of GM food, a rigorous test is written into the law.

Dr Guy van dan Eede of the European Commission's Institute of Health and Consumer Protection.

"For us within the European community, testing is essential, there is a new law into force on the 19th of April, we need to have testing procedures for every GMO that's being place on the European market. My organisation, the joint research centre of European commission actually checks the validity of such a method."

Proper testing and policing will ensure that only GM-food that's been certified safe by the World Health Organisation or individual countries will reach our neighbourhood supermarkets.

Karen Chan, a local consumer and expectant mother, says she wouldn't mind eating GM-food if stringent checks exist.

"I am trusting the authorities are giving us sufficient knowledge or at least are disseminating sufficient accurate information to consumers like us. There is a certain level of trust that we have to have in terms of it is a safe product to consume. Ultimately if it is safe, I guess I am not against taking it."

But in countries like Europe, Japan, and other developed western economies, food retailers are require to label GM food products clearly.

Dr van dan Eede thinks this will eventually become a global movement and not just a European idiosyncrasy.

"Labelling requirement as they are applied in the European Union is also taken over by a number of international like Codex Alimentarius. I also hear that a number of non-EU countries, even the United States, Japan. It is certainly the case in Australia and New Zealand so it is not that the EU is an island in terms of labelling. There may be a tendency towards world-wide labelling."

GM-food in the form of soya, corn and canola oil has been in Singapore the last four to five years.

But many Singaporeans don't know about them being GM food as they have never been labelled as such.

Dr Ngiam of the A-V-A explains why Singapore hasn't adopted this practice.

"The labeling of GM food is something being discussed at the international level, at WHO and Codex Alimentarius [Commission] and we are participating in this discussion because it is quite a complex procedures to label and it is very difficult to detect GM material in compound food and therefore that has to be sorted out first and we will adhere to international guidelines on this when it comes about."

But the situation here in Singapore may change as people get savvier and desire more information about the food they eat.

Dr van dan Eede feels this trend of wanting to know more is a natural progression.

"More and more are concern with not just GMOs but in general people would like to know what kind of food they are eating, where the food is coming from. After a number of problems that we have seen with food, people tend to have more and more interests in the quality and the origins of their food. Labelling and traceability may be a solution to that."

Singapore may only be moving towards clear labelling of GM food only if a world standard has been reached because of certain constraints, highlights Dr Ngiam.

"We cannot insist GM producing countries to label because Singapore is a very small market for food and we don't produce our own. It will be quite difficult for us to access sources of food in the world."

While it may be slower in coming, most if not all Singaporeans will one day ask for the labelling of GM food.

Ms Karen Chan with the reasons why.

"I would like to know if they have been genetically altered or not so that if I have young children or the elderly or parents who may choose not to eat it for whatever the health reasons, then at least that gives me the choice."

The old cliché goes, we are what we eat.

So perhaps, it isn't too much to ask for, when we ask to know what exactly is it that we are eating.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

European Union FAQ on GM Food Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Agrifood and Veterinary Authority Singapore Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

World Health OrganisationPhotobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Codex Alimentarius Commission

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OTGV #58 - Fundraising

Broadcast Date: 31/05/04

Singapore is a country that is fiercely proud that it isn't a welfare state.

It also seeks to be a country where the wealthy help out the poor.

Where the government doesn't provide, the non-profit sector welfare organisation will step in.

But where will the funds come from?

Hi Welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang.

For the longest time, the non-profit sector depended on a central body Community Chest to raise their funds for them.

But as some grew savvier, non-profit organisations or NPOs start to raise their own funds.

NPOs like NKF has became wildly successful and are subsequently targetted by the public for veering into the area of using professional fundraisers.

So is the old system still useful?

Executive Director of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre or NVPC, Mrs Tan Chee Koon.

"The Comm Chest model still has its usefulness especially for the smaller charities that don't have the benefit of sufficient resources themselves to brand, to market, to brand their cause. Having said that, there is a need for CommChest to also re-invent itself. One reason for this is that more and more donors want to dictate where their money goes to. So under that kind of environment, the CommChest equivalent organisations have to see how they can accommodate donors' advice."

The Singapore now is different from the olden days.

These days Singapore sees massive television charity galas, direct mailers and myriad charity events.

Is there a danger of compassion fatigue?

"Compassion fatigue? No I don't think so. It is for us then to put the need across to the giving public or the ones who are not already giving but who could be on the fringe, who just need to be told that there is an opportunity for them to give to and I think it is for the NPOs to be able to enunciate that need and not necessarily just tug on people's emotions but sometimes also to make a good business case as to why it makes sense for the grant makers to come in and support them."

It is generally accepted by the NPO community that fund-raising is a tedious and awkward exercise.

Most feel that having to worry about and to seek funds detracts from their core services.

But some, especially those with the backing of religious societies or the marketing clout of NKF don't seem to worry too much.

Dr Lee Tuck Siang, CEO of the Thye Hwa Kuang Moral Society who runs some 50 family service centres, home for the aged and the Ang Mo Kio Hospital.

"We do not have much problems fund-raising. We do not go out all the way to fund-raise. We believe in live and let live. So we just fund-raise when there is a need but since we took over Ang Mo Kio Hospital 2002, the deficit is 2.57 million per year and with the recent deduction in subvention, we may have to go for fundraising."

Others find that it is easy to raise funds when donors think it is a one-time charge of paying for the construction of a facility.

President of the Hospice Care Association, Dr Seet Ai Mee.

"For most fund-raising, it is very easy to fund-raise for a building project even for renovation, there is a tendency for people to give to a certain object but for people to give towards supports, and towards salaries of doctors and nurses, it is not very common."

This is something that NVPC hopes very much to change says Mrs Tan.

"What we want to see is corporate donors go beyond programme funding into infrastructural overheads needs of these new initiatives or new programmes. These programmes need people to run it but traditionally, the givers have fought shy of funding overheads. So we also trying to encourage companies to take a strategic approach to giving, empower these organisations especially in their start-up years, by helping to cover whether its their staff, their rent, so that they can concentrate on delivering their services to their beneficiaries."

If NPVC is to succeed, it will certainly be much welcome by groups such as Action for Aids or AFA.

The funds raised by AFA go into subsidies for AIDS sufferers’ treatment.

The medication is incredibly expensive and the group estimates over half of the AIDS patients here can't afford the tab.

And yet, AFA's Brenton Wong says their outreach is small and he explains why.

"It's been difficult and because we have been dealing with this particular stigmatised subject of HIV/AIDS many people do not want to be involved in fundraising for us because they find that it is a topic that is not socially acceptable. And there are very few people who understand the issues as well and they tend to be judgmental so they do not give as freely as to other charities."

For groups like AFA, smaller NPOs or startup NPOs, NVPC hopes that there will be more horizontal cooperation to pool their resources together when it comes to raising funds.

Mrs Tan.

"We are trying to encourage is for some of these smaller, like-minded charities perhaps in the same cause to band together and jointly promote their interests as a cause so that when givers give, they give to maybe 3, 4 , 5 of these charities as a way to go."

Right now, an NPO has the best chance of being surviving if it enlists a high-profile political or entertainment celebrity to help it source for funds.

NPVC hopes that when the Singaporean society will mature as a giving society, it will be the NPO's mission that draws the cash from Singaporeans,

and not who is supporting them or what prizes they can win to draw them into parting with their cash.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

Community Chest at National Council of Social Service Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Hospice Care Association Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Ang Mo Kio/Thye Hwa Kuang Moral Society Hospital Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Action for Aids Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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