Gene technology legislation
National Gene Technology Scheme
Gene technology is any technique that modifies genes or any other genetic material to produce a genetically modified organism (GMO) such as a bacteria or plant.
Gene technology is regulated via a nationally consistent legislative scheme. The scheme is made up of
- Commonwealth Gene Technology Act 2000
- Commonwealth Gene Technology Regulations 2001
- corresponding state and territory legislation.
The object of the gene technology legislation is to protect the health and safety of people, and the environment, by identifying risks posed by or as a result of gene technology, and by managing those risks through regulating certain dealings with genetically modified organisms.
The scheme is supported by the intergovernmental Gene Technology Agreement 2001 between the Australian Government and each state and territory.
All Australian jurisdictions contributed to developing the scheme and legislation.
The Minister for Health has responsibility for the SA Gene Technology Act and Regulations.
Genetically Modified Products
Genetically modified products are derived or produced from genetically modified organisms which are not alive. These products include food, medicines, agricultural and industrial chemicals. For example, a purified protein derived from a genetically modified bacteria.
The use of genetically modified products is regulated by other agencies, such as the:
- Therapeutic Goods Administration
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand
- Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
- National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, Department of Health
- BioSecurity, Department of Agriculture.
Genetically modified products are only regulated under gene technology legislation if there is no existing product regulator.
Genetically Modified Food
Genetically modified food contains an ingredient which is, produced using gene technology.
Food must be labelled as 'genetically modified' if it:
- contains novel DNA and/or novel protein
- has altered characteristics.
Many highly processed foods such as oils are not required to be labelled as 'genitally modified'.
Standard 1.5.2 in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code sets out permissions and conditions for the sale and use of genetically modified food. These include labelling and other specific information requirements for foods produced using gene technology.
As part of the national system, South Australia contributes to the assessment of these foods for safety and labelling issues.
Genetically Modified Crops
The South Australia Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004 provides for areas designated areas:
- to cultivate a specified class of crop
- where specified class of crops cannot be cultivated
- where no genetically modified food crops may be cultivated
The Act also provides protections regarding the spread of genetically modified plant material and for powers to regulate the growing of genetically modified food crops.
In South Australia, the Genetically Modified Crops Management Regulations 2008, designates the whole of South Australia as an area in which no genetically modified food crops may be cultivated.
Any plant or plant material that forms part of a genetically modified food crop grown outside of South Australia is not permitted to enter South Australia. This includes:
- seed for planting
- harvested seed for cleaning
- harvested grain for processing or export
Any person found guilty of bringing genetically modified food crops (which includes any plant or plant material that forms part of a genetically modified food crop) grown outside South Australia can be fined up to $200,000.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries has responsibility for the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act and Regulations.