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New gene technology regulations: the strongest in the world.



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Media Release Dr Michael Wooldridge Minister for Health and Aged Care

MW53/01 21st June 2001

NEW GENE TECHNOLOGY REGULATIONS: THE STRONGEST IN THE WORLD New laws to manage genetically modified organisms (GMOs), that come into place today throughout Australia, are some of the toughest and fairest laws in the world, said Federal Health Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge.

Dr Wooldridge today launched the Gene Technology Act 2000 and the new Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.

"The sole purpose of the new Gene Technology legislation is to ensure that any dealings undertaken in Australia with genetically modified organisms do not cause harm to human health or to the environment," Dr Wooldridge said.

"This is why the legislation comes under the responsibility of the Health portfolio, with other portfolios like Environment, Agriculture and Industry, Science and Resources also having a significant interest in the technology. This legislation is, above all, about the health and safety of the Australian public."

Dr Wooldridge said the Gene Technology Act provides for the appointment of an independent Gene Technology Regulator who has extensive powers to regulate all dealings with genetically modified organisms in Australia and the Act provides for legally enforceable penalties of up to $1.1 million per breach, per day to be imposed on companies that infringe operating conditions.

"In all the public consultations that were held in developing this legislation, it was clear that the public wanted a regulatory system that was independent and transparent.

"I believe this control framework will provide a climate of community confidence in which the potential benefits of GMOs can be developed, as well as effectively regulating any risks associated with this technology.

Dr Wooldridge said the processes set out in the Gene Technology Act provide that the views of all interested parties will be taken into account by the new Regulator and the regulatory scheme will:

require open and transparent public consultation; ● provide the Regulator with access to a wide range of expert advice, including three advisory committees an expert scientific committee, an ethics committee, and a community consultative committee;

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ensure timely decision-making to provide certainty to industry; ● and set out a wide range of controls that are commensurate with the risks involved. ●

"For example, all applications for GMOs to be released into the environment will be automatically forwarded to each State and Territory Government, existing regulators and the Commonwealth Environment Minister for advice. Public submissions on the applications will also be invited," he said.

"I believe this regulatory system provides an excellent operating environment in which biotechnology in Australia can develop, while protecting the health of our community and our environment," Dr Wooldridge said.

Media Contact: Craig Simonetto, Office of Dr Wooldridge 02 6277 7220 Kay McNiece, Office of the Gene Technology Regulator 0412 132 585

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Published on Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care web site 25 June 2001 Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care URL: http://www.health.gov.au/mediarel/yr2001/mw/mw01053.htm