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Australia’s Gene Technology Regulator reappointed.

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THE HON CHRISTOPHER PYNE MP Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing

Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 • Telephone: (02) 6277 4842 Facsimile: (02) 6277 8581

27 October 2006 CP70/06

Australia’s Gene Technology Regulator reappointed

The Australian Government, with the unanimous agreement of the Gene Technology Ministerial Council, has reappointed Dr Sue Meek as the national Gene Technology Regulator for a further five years.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne, said Dr Meek had successfully administered a transparent and rigorous regulatory regime which has instilled public confidence in the management of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Australia.

“Dr Meek has used her science and technology expertise to make appropriate decisions about dealings in GMOs based on the best available evidence and this has won her the respect of state and territories governments, researchers and industry,” Mr Pyne said.

“Monitoring activities by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator have exceeded targets and no significant risks to either human health or the environment have been identified. Minor, technical non-compliances have not been found to be deliberate and licence holders have worked cooperatively to bring licences back into compliance.”

During her first term, in accordance with all requirements of the gene technology legislation and within all statutory timeframes, the Regulator has:

• issued over 50 licences for release of GMOs into the environment (including commercial scale release of genetically modified varieties of cotton, canola, carnations, and a cholera vaccine); • issued over 300 licences for dealings not involving intentional release of GMOs into the

environment (including research work to better understand important human diseases and develop improved diagnostic and treatment methods); • certified over 2000 contained facilities; and • accredited over 150 organisations to conduct work with GMOs.

“In addition a range of technical and procedural guidelines covering certification requirements for physical containment laboratories, safe transport of GMOs and accreditation of organisations have been issued by the Regulator,” Mr Pyne said.

“The 2005 Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) performance audit found that the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) had developed and implemented policies and procedures for the efficient and effective discharge of selected functions entrusted to it

under the Act. The ANAO made a number of recommendations for improvement which were agreed to and all have been implemented.

“Confidence in the Regulator and the OGTR was also made clear during public hearings held by the independent review of the Gene Technology Act which found that the Act and the national regulatory scheme have worked well over the last five years, with no major changes required.

“The review found that the Act is rigorous, with a high level of transparency in relation to decision making. The review also found that the regulatory framework set out in the Act is appropriate and is being applied effectively. A number of changes intended to improve the operation of the Act at the margin were recommended,” Mr Pyne said.

Mr Pyne said that under Dr Meek’s leadership the OGTR had established a reputation for high standards and scientific excellence both within Australia and overseas, particularly in relation to the development and implementation of the Risk Analysis Framework which guides the use of international best practice in assessing GMO licence applications.

Media contact: Adam Howard, Mr Pyne’s Office - 0400 414 833 Kay McNiece, Office of the Gene Technology Regulator - 0412 132 585)