The Australian Federal Government passed the Gene Technology Act in December 2000 to regulate the research, use and release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Australia. Its object was “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 (GMOs)”.
The regulatory framework of the Gene Technology Act was as follows:
The object of this Act is to be achieved through a regulatory framework which:
(aa) provides that where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing cost‑effective measures to prevent environmental degradation; and
(a) provides an efficient and effective system for the application of gene technologies; and
(b) operates in conjunction with other Commonwealth and State regulatory schemes relevant to GMOs and GM products.
The Act was designed to ensure a consistent approach to gene technology throughout Australia and, at the time, was concerned chiefly with locally grown and imported foods. It established the position of Gene Technology Regulator with the responsibility to develop policy guidelines and codes of practice and to provide information and advice to other regulatory agencies about GMOs and GM products. The Regulator’s activities formed part of an integrated legislative framework that included a number of other regulatory authorities with complementary responsibilities and expertise. It also required those dealing with GMOs to be registered and licensed. Those applying for licences were required to conduct a risk assessment.
A review of the Act in 2011 concluded that it was working well, although there were aspects of its implementation at state and territory level that needed attention. It found that the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator was operating in an effective and efficient manner.
The Act has been amended several times since its establishment, as have the regulations relating to it.