AusBiotech has made a submission to the Technical Review of the Gene Technology Regulations 2001, ‘Discussion paper: Options for regulating new technologies’, in which it made four recommendations consistent with the principles of a robust regulatory framework:
- Exclude certain new technologies from regulation on the basis of the outcomes they produce;
- Redefine Schedule 1, Item 1 to ‘A mutant organism in which the mutational event did not involve the introduction of any non‑homologous DNA sequences from a non-sexually compatible species’;
- Exclude ODM, SDN-1 and SDN-2 from regulation under the GT Act 2000 by including these new technologies in Schedule 1A; and
- Exclude cisgenesis from regulation under the GT Act 2000, by including cisgenesis in Schedule 1A.
It is critical for the competitiveness of Australia’s agricultural innovation industry that we maintain the capacity to support innovation and deliver its outcomes (i.e. commercialisation) to ensure that developing technologies will benefit all Australians.
Inconsistencies within, and uncertainty of regulation, is the single most influential factor impacting the decisions of major research providers to invest in Australia. Uncertainty is exacerbated with the development and introduction of new technologies at a time when policy and regulation has not kept pace with these developments.
When adopted by plant and animal breeders new technologies have the demonstrated potential to facilitate greater efficiency, effectiveness and economies of scale associated with producing high performance plant varieties and animals that will be required to address the increasing demand to feed the world, environmental sustainability and animal welfare.
In the Australian agriculture sector, where there is a continued focus on exporting agricultural and horticultural produce, Australia needs to be cultivating plant varieties and animals with the best genetics (from a productivity and efficiency perspective). Given that countries that directly compete in the agricultural sector, such as the United States of America (USA) and Canada, have ostensibly product based regulatory frameworks, some products derived using some new techniques may be preferentially commercialised in these jurisdictions affording these farmers a competitive advantage over Australian producers. It also means that plant breeders, in particular, in those countries are able to use innovative techniques that are restricted via regulation to Australian plant and animal breeders. From a plant breeding perspective alone, if Australia does not embrace new breeding techniques, there is the real chance that the long term competitiveness of the Australian agricultural and horticultural industries will be affected as our genetics fail to keep pace with the rest of the world.