2017 – Third review

The third review of the National Gene Technology Scheme considered technical, regulatory, governance and social and ethical issues. It also looked at modernising and future proofing the scheme.

The third review

On 27 July, 2017, the Gene Technology Ministers’ Meeting (GTMM) announced the third review of the National Gene Technology Scheme. They were known as the Legislative and Governance Forum on Gene Technology at that time.

The Gene Technology Standing Committee (GTSC), a working group of senior officials from all Australian governments, led the third review of the scheme. A panel of independent experts supported the GTSC.

Read the terms of reference of the review.

Key findings

The third review found that:

  • overall, the scheme is working well and has operated successfully in assessing and managing the risks posed by GMOs
  • there are opportunities to update and modernise the scheme that would strengthen it and make sure it remains fit for purpose
  • the scheme should be flexible enough to deal with future developments and challenges in areas such as
    • health
    • medicine
    • agriculture
    • plants and animals.

This review reassures the public that we will continue to identify and manage any risks that gene technology might pose for people and the environment.

Consultation phases

There were 3 consultation phases:

Phase 1 – Written submissions

The GTSC sought input from stakeholders to understand the key issues that needed to be addressed in the review. In this phase the reviewers also looked at previous reports and reviews.

Read the submissions from phase 1.

Phase 2 – Explore options and possible policy solutions

Using the input from phase 1, and supported by an expert advisory panel, the GTSC engaged with stakeholders to:

  • explore options
  • develop solutions to the issues captured.

Read the consultation paper and submissions.

Phase 3 – Preliminary report

Consolidating input from the first 2 consultation phases, the GTSC presented findings in a preliminary report. This was reviewed by the Expert Advisory Panel. Stakeholders were invited to submit feedback.

Read the submissions from phase 3.

Final report

Consultations on the third review have produced consistent results. Participants emphasised that while the scheme is working well, it would benefit from:

  • increasing flexibility in the Act and the Regulations to respond to new information and risks
  • increasing transparency to ensure public confidence
  • implementing the streamlining proposals outlined in the issues paper.

The third review final report was presented to the Legislative and Governance Forum on Gene Technology (now the Gene Technology Ministers’ Meeting). Ministers discussed the findings with the expert advisory panel before endorsing all 27 review recommendations.

Read the final report.

Action plans

Gene technology ministers agreed to implement the recommendations over a 5-year period and developed an action plan which outlined an initial approach. It is reviewed annually to identify priorities.

The action plan shows governments’ commitment to stakeholders to implement recommendations in a coordinated and consultative way, showing:

  • indicative timing
  • expected sequence of implementation.

The ministers agreed to an updated action plan in 2021. It took into account changes in priorities arising from the 2020 review of COAG councils and ministerial forms.

Read the 2018–2023 action plan and the updated 2020–2023 action plan.

Implementing third review recommendations

Implementation strategy

The GTSC released an implementation strategy which outlined action plan priorities for 2019.

Issues paper

Based on the action plan endorsed by the then Legislative and Governance Forum on Gene Technology (now the Gene Technology Ministers’ Meeting) the GTSC developed an issues paper focusing on:

  • matters relating to definitional issues
  • risk proportionate regulation
  • streamlining of regulation.

The paper outlined discussion about each of these issues and sought feedback on key factors to guide potential change.

Issues paper submissions

Read the submissions.

Consultation to address recommendations

In 2021 we held a public consultation to inform a framework that addresses the recommendations from this review of the scheme. The GTMM considered submissions in October 2018. Three policy options were proposed to implement the recommendations.

The GTMM invited submissions on a consultation regulation impact statement and explanatory paper.


Read the submissions.


The GTSC held webinars to outline proposed options and give an opportunity for questions.

Read a summary of the Q&A session.

Final decision

The GTMM endorsed a decision regulation impact statement, informed by the submissions received, and chose a preferred option that identifies the regulatory framework with the greatest net benefit.

Changes to legislation needed to implement this regulatory option will go through normal parliamentary processes.

Read the decision regulation impact statement.

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