The National Gene Technology Scheme is underpinned by the following legislation:
- Gene Technology Act 2000
- Gene Technology Regulations 2001
- corresponding state and territory legislation.
The scheme is supported by the intergovernmental Gene Technology Agreement 2001.
The Act defines gene technology as any technique used to modify genes or other genetic material. It does not include:
- sexual reproduction
- homologous recombination
- other techniques that the regulations specify are not gene technology.
Learn more about the legislation, including all amendments, on the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator’s website.
Key features of the Act
- prohibits all dealings with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) unless authorised
- empowers monitoring and enforcement of the legislation
- outlines a process for assessing risk
- established committees for governance and expert advice
- appointed the regulator to make decisions
- established a database of all GMOs approved in Australia.
Legislation in states and territories
Legislation supporting the National Gene Technology Scheme was developed in consultation with all jurisdictions across Australia. Under the intergovernmental agreement, each state and territory government must pass and maintain laws corresponding with Commonwealth gene technology legislation.
All Australian jurisdictions contribute to review of gene technology legislation. Any proposed changes are reviewed by each state and territories’ responsible minister and undergo public consultation.
Queensland, New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Tasmania do not have regulations, as they automatically adopt any amendments to the Commonwealth Act and Regulations.
Some states and territories also have other legislation related to the use of gene technology.
Australian Capital Territory
- Gene Technology Act 2003
- Gene Technology Regulations 2004
- Gene Technology (GM Crop Moratorium) Act 2004.
New South Wales
- Gene Technology Act 2001
- Gene Technology Regulations 2017
- Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004
- Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Act 2020.
- Gene Technology Act 2001
- Gene Technology Regulations 2011
- Control of Genetically Modified Crops Act 2004.
Guidelines for emergency response under the Act
Where there is an actual or imminent threat to the health and safety of people or the environment, emergency provisions exist to allow a cooperative, effective and rapid response.
Potential threats include, for example:
- the outbreak of a plant, animal or human disease
- a threat from a particular plant or animal, such as a pest or invasive species
- an industrial spillage.
The Australian Government minister responsible for the scheme has the power to:
- temporarily exempt a specific GMO from licensing requirements, where it will help address an emergency and we can adequately manage any risks
- declare something to be a GMO for a limited period where:
- it poses a threat
- we are unsure whether it meets the definition of a GMO in the Act
- it is likely the declaration will address the threat.
Read the guidelines for more information about the types of emergencies and processes involved.