Friday, January 9, 2009

Regulatory oversight - any conflict of interest for AVA with respect to bisphenol-A?

My main concern with bisphenol-A really lie in the conflict of interest difficulty it poses for the AVA (Agrifood-Vet Authority). Here is a situation where the AVA has to steer a difficult path between protection of consumer safety and promotion of industrial and economic interests.

What am I talking about? Well, Singapore is actually an important bisphenol manufacturer. The Japanese company Mitsui Chemicals has been an industrial partner since the 1960's and has to date invested about S$1 billion, contributing to the success of Jurong island etc.

It is fortunate in this instance, that the problem with bisphenol-A is probably more hysteria than reality, but it represents a good example of how the present regulatory set up makes it difficult for regulators to keep their eye on the ball. Should bisphenol-A be eventually be shown to be toxic, how would the AVA act against Mitsui Chemicals? Can it bite the hand of an important industrial partner that has been feeding Singapore's economic growth for the last 40 years?

I think the public needs to know how regulatory agencies are 'china-walled' to minimize conflicts of interest such as these, and whether the wall is adequately sound.

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