Media Release

​Future Direction of Gene Technology Reviews

26 October 2017

There will be more certainty around the regulation of new technologies through an interim measure to provide clarity to industry and the public on which techniques are considered gene technology in Australia.​

Assistant Minister for Health, the Hon Dr David Gillespie, said that Au​stralia's gene technology regulatory system is among the best in the world.

"We have a system that values openness and transparency, using the best available science to inform decisions, but this scheme needs to be kept up to date with scientific advances across the fields of medicine and agriculture," Minister Gillespie said.

"Draft amendments to regulations will be released for consultation by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator in November which take into account rapid technological development in recent years and will provide clarity to support researchers and industry to improve people's health and wellbeing both here and overseas whilst maintaining an appropriate level of regulation."

The proposed changes, which will need to be approved by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Gene Technology, will ensure that new technologies are regulated in a manner commensurate with the risks they pose. Details will be available on the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator website today at www.ogtr.gov.au.

"This direction best supports the effectiveness of the gene technology legislative framework at this time and is an appropriate interim measure to provide clarity and certainty for industry, pending consideration of policy issues through the separate 2017 National Gene Technology Scheme Review, being conducted by all Australian Governments under the Gene Technology Agreement," Minister Gillespie said.

Agricultural peak industry bodies support this approach and look forward to further consultations as part the broader review of the gene technology scheme.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said to date there has been strong interest from industry, research organisations and the public in the review of the Gene Technology Regulations.

"Gene technology can help support the ongoing productivity and sustainability of our agriculture industries. We are already seeing the strong potential of gene editing in supporting agricultural industries and food production," Minister Joyce said.

"CSIRO is developing a new type of canola through gene technology processes that contain omega-3 oils, which are an important nutrient for human health.

"In the years to 2050 it is estimated, the world has to produce as much food as humanity has consumed to this point. It's a huge task and Australia needs to be at the cutting edge of technology to ensure that we can feed ourselves and make our contribution to the food security of the world."

Draft amendments to regulations will be open for public consultation from November 2017.

Assistant Minister Gillespie also announced the appointment of Ms Claire Noone, Prof Ian Small, Prof David Tscharke and Dr Mark Tizard to an Expert Advisory Panel to advise and inform the 2017 review of the National Gene Technology Scheme.

"These individuals bring specific expertise across key areas including medicine, environment, biology, ethics, law, gene technology and regulation," Minister Gillespie said.

"This review will ensure the scheme remains effective, agile and supports innovation into the future."

All interested parties are invited to participate in consultation as part of the 2017 National Gene Technology Scheme review. Detailed information can be found at the Review of the Scheme website.