Submission to Statutory Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000 by Producers Forum for Biotechnology Access
Producers Forum participants are agricultural producers from all over Australia. In March 2005 the initial participants in the Forum met to discuss our frustration at being denied the choice to grow genetically modified [GM] crops (other than cotton and carnations).
The focus of this submission will be agricultural biotechnology.
Participants in the Producers Forum are grain and oilseed growers from Western Australia, dried fruit, dairy, grain and beef producers from Victoria, and cotton, grain, cattle, sheep and oilseed growers from New South Wales and Queensland and grain and livestock producers from South Australia. Many of us are members of state farm associations and commodity organizations.
Initially, we were driven by frustration at the attitude towards GM crops of some of the major commodity companies and State Governments in Australia, and believed that Australia was missing out on possibly the most beneficial technical advance the world has ever seen.
We note the rapid uptake of GM canola by growers in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia since the removal of the moratorium in Victoria and the changes in legislation allowing cultivation of GM canola in NSW and WA. Australian farmers have stayed viable by being at the forefront of technology adoption on a very uneven global playing field. Regretfully, our colleagues in South Australia are still being forced to abstain from possibly the most important technology in our lifetimes. Additionally, the SA moratorium prohibits the transport of GM seeds through the state raising the question of legitimacy of the SA moratorium legislation under the restricitve trade provisions of Section 92 of the Consititution.
The Forum provides producers with access to science-based information, referees with experience in gene technology and a forum in which to discuss GM issues. Grain growers have demonstrated their value of informed, evidence-based approach to the gene technology issue by subscribing to our email list in numbers as well as by public and private acknowledgement.
Producers Forum is a working title for these producers with a common concern, not an organization.
Agriculture and Technology
Australian agriculture has a rich history in both applying and developing new technologies. Anustralian producers' willingness to adopt innovative practices and technologies, together with extensive research and extension services, has enabled them to have a raft of managment tools at their disposal to meet their production and marketing challenges.
Farmers do not adopt new technologies for their own sake. The technology must satisfy certain criteria such as: meet a production need, be affordable and contribute to the continuing sustainability & viability of their production system.
The farming sector continues to look to science for new technologies that will aid productivity and provide an economic, environmental and social benefit to producers and subsequently to the wider community.
Biotechnology, in the form of genetically modified (GM) crops, is one such technology.
The Australian cotton industry exemplifies the benefits that may be gained for the adoption of products developed using gene technology. Economic, social and environmental benefits resulting from the adoption of the products of biotechnology can be demonstrated by the industry. The canola industry has also seen substantial benefits especially agronomically and environmentally. There are more weed control options which has the added benefit of extending the life existing weed control chemisty, reduced passes using less fuel and man-hours and the system aids use of no-till or minimum-till systems.
The state moratoria on the introduction of new genetically modified food crops in South Australia and Tasmania prevent farmers in those states from accessing similar benefits.
In the market place, Canada, the major world producer of canola and our main competitor, is able to sell GM product into the same markets as Australia. The bulk of canola grown in Canada is GM. World agriculture is adopting the technology at an increasing rate.
In industries and countries where farmers have access to GM crops the benefits have been; lower production costs and greater benefit to the environment due to reduced pesticide use; more management choices (e.g. ability to use reduced-till or no-till systems); less soil erosion; reduces rates of development resistance to chemicals; less fuel use (due to fewer passes); better weed control also reducing herbicide usage; and higher yields and hence greater rewards for for farmers, their communities and the environment.
There is potential for improved agronomic and abiotic traits, and traits to support adaptation to a changing climate.
The Gene Technology Act 2000
The Gene Technology Act 2000 established a regulatory framework soundly founded on credible science and free of the influence of either vested interests or philosophical bias.
After extensive consultation with all stakeholders, the Gene Technology Act 2000 gave Australia a gene technology system that is considered as possibly the best and most rigorous, transparent and effective in the world. The Statutory Review of 2006 confirmed this view.
The aim of the Act, to "protect the health and safety of people and the environment from risks posed by or as a result of gene technology", remains as appropriate today as it was in 2000 and 2006. It is essential that the Act remains science based, rigorous and transparent so that agricultural producers, industries as a whole and consumers can continue to have confidence that products licensed for release by the regulator can be grown and consumed safely.
Risk-assessments undertaken by the regulator need to remain focused on health and safety issues. Marketing issues, economics, trade, cultural and social impacts and ethical issues should be examined outside the act. Taking these issues into consideration would undermine the objectivity of the regulator.
The act allows for discussion of cultural, social and ethical issues via the advisory bodies - the Gene Technology Community Consultative Committee (GTCCC) and the Gene Technology Ethics Committee (GTEC). As these are value-based issues, these committees provide a suitable platform for their consideration. The regulatory framework is not an appropriate vehicle for thier consideration.
We have seen in the GM debate that emotive anti-GM campaigns continue to influence public perception causing confusion and concern about technology in general, its safety and the willingness of our markets (in the case of canola) to accept either a GM product or one that has been produced in an environment where GM crops may also be grown. These campaigns are often based on incomplete and/or misinterpreted data, and sometimes deliberate misrepresentation.
Marketing, economic and trade issues should be addressed by industry and by government. The South Australian and Tasmanian governments continue to maintain unscientific moratoria on the introduction of GM crops. These moratoria and those formally in place in other states have undermined the effectiveness of the regulatory scheme.
The complete removal of the moratorium in Victoria and new legislation in NSW and WA which establishes a system of approvals to allow GM crops to be grown and the uptake of GM canola varieties by growers in those states indicate the confidence of both industry and government in the regulatory system.
Response to Terms of Refecence
TOR - Area One
The National Scheme
The intention of The Gene Technology Act 2000 to achieve a nationally consistent regulatory framework has not been acheived as indicated by the variety of legislations across the States. Therefore investors in GM technology have no clear path-to-market.
Such uncertainty added to the already costly regulatory systems undermines the confidence and willingness of potential investors in R&D. Without such investment agricultural industries will struggle to keep our world-class researchers who provide innovative, productive, new technological options for Australian agriculture and will see a continuing downward trend of competitiveness in the world market.
We look for leadership and cooperation between Federal and State governments to resolve this issue.
Emerging Trends and International Developments
By rapid uptake of the technology, farmers have shown both the need for and usefulness of the current range of GM traits in crops.
Farmers are aware of new traits being introduced into crops that may increase nutrient and water use efficiency, resist drought pests and diseases, increase nutritional quality and increase yield. Such developments will benefit the individual farmer, agriculture as a whole, consumers and the environment.
Australia must have a regulatory system that can manage such developments efficaciously.
Definintions and provisions within the Act.
The GT regulatory system works effectively. However, there needs to be a mechanism in place for reducing the time and cost of the assessment procedure where similar products have been registed, tested and have a history of use in other countries.
The powers of the Act for enforcement of compliance are effective and appropriate.
GM products are properly covered by common law that already adequately address similar issues in agricultural production.
There is still a definite need for clear, informative communications from the OGTR to industry and the general public.
Not with-standing the increased and improved communication from the OGTR and others over the life of the act, in general, there remains confusion in the community about GM crops and foods and their safety for humans and the environment. Indeed, it appears that there are still considerable sections of the community who remain unaware that there is a regulatory framework in place.
The advisory committees have a vital role within the GM regulatory framework.
The clear science-based frameworks must be retained so that the aim of protecting Australians and the Australian environment can continue to be achieved.
Value based judgements have no place in assessing the quality and safety of GM products. Trying to incorporate value judgements in the decision-making process would certainly slow it to a standstill.
Menbers of the advisory committees should continue to be chosen on the basis of expertise.
Interface between the Act and other Acts and Schemes
To date, there is no nationally consistent Gene Technology regulation due to the differing state-based legislations. Therefore, there is no clear path-to-market for GM products.
The cost of meeting the regulatory requirements should be concomitant with the level of risk. This cost should not be such that any but the largest organizations can afford to undertake research and development in gene technology.
At this early stage of the use of gene technology in Australia, the regulatory system needs continued support from Government. Insurmountable costs of compliance would effectively deny Australian producers access to gene technology, lead to lack of incentive to invest in R & D in biotechnology and a brain drain on some of our best and brightest researchers to other countires.
Some stakeholders that the regulator must consult with (e.g. local councils) during the application/approval process are unlikely to have expertise in gene technology and will be subject to intense lobbying. A process is needed so that the regulator can be assured that such parties have the information, supporting expertise and time and opportunity to make a well informed decision.
The regulatory system must remain open & transparent. With the intention of ensuring the safety of GM crops and foods for humans and the environment, GM crops undergo far greater assessment and scrutiny than any other. Such assessment must remain rigorously science-based to achieve these goals. Regulation must not be based on emotion, innuendo or political expediency.
Participants in the Producers Forum believe that the current regulatory framework for gene technology is firmly science based and must remain so.
The OGTR is one of many major scientific organizations, academics of sciene and regulatory authorities around the world that have determined that the products of gene technology available are of no more risk to human health and the environment than their conventionally bred counterparts.
The differing states legislations continue to inhibit progress in the application of products of gene technology to agricultural systems and mean that there is no clear path to market for GM products. Without a clear path to market companies large or small cannot proceed with research or product development and testing.
Participants in the Producers Forum thanks the Review Panel for the opportunity to comment.
Original submission in PDF format (PDF 181 KB)
In this section
- Occasional papers series
- Plasma Fractionation Review
- Regulatory Plan 2007-08
- Regulatory Plan 2008-09
- Regulatory Plan 2006-07
- Department of Health Reconciliation Action Plan
- PHERP Review Reports
- Margaret River Consumer for GM Free Food Submission to the review Gene Technology Act 2000
- 2002 Reviews of the National HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C Strategies and Strategic Research
- 2006 – 2007 Jurisdictional Summary Report against the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (NSFATSIH)
- A National Aboriginal Health Strategy: An Evaluation 1994
- An analysis of research on preventing falls and falls injury in older people: Community, residential care and hospital settings (2004 update)
- Anorexia nervosa: Australian treatment guide for consumers and carers, 2005
- Building on success 1: a review of gay and other homosexually active men's HIV/AIDS education in Australia
- Building on success 2: towards a national strategy for HIV/AIDS health promotion for gay and other homosexually active men
- Building on success 3: the Commonwealth Government response to towards national strategy for HIV/AIDS health promotion for gay and other homosexually active men
- COAG mental health early intervention measure - early childhood component: study to scope potential service delivery
- Coping with depression: Australian treatment guide for consumers and carers, 2005
- Council Of Grain Grower Organisations submission to the Gene Technology Act 2000 Review
- Deakin University submission to the Gene Technology Act 2000 review
- Deep vein thrombosis and air travel
- Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) - Medicare Australia Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
- Discussion Document Towards a Fourth National HIV/AIDS Strategy April 1999
- Drug and Alcohol Service Report (DASR): 2006-2007 Key Results
- Drug and Alcohol Service Report (DASR): 2007-2008 Key Results
- Evidence of effective interventions to improve the social and environmental factors impacting on health: Informing the development of Indigenous Community Agreements
- Falls prevention activities for older people: a national stocktake
- Gene technology Act 2000 review from Guy Izzett
- gettin em n keepin em
- Government response to the House of Representatives Inquiry into Indigenous health: 'Health is life'
- Innovative grants program: project summaries
- MAIF Guidelines - Marketing Of Infant Formulas Via Electronic Media
- Measuring Remoteness: Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) Revised Edition. Occasional Papers: New Series Number 14
- National evaluation of the Sharing Health Care Initiative demonstration projects
- National HIV/AIDS Strategy 2005-2008: Implementation Plan
- National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Context July 2003
- National strategy for heart, stroke and vascular health in Australia
- Panic disorder and agoraphobia: Australian treatment guide for consumers and carers, 2005
- Principles for the consideration of interactions with health care professionals for the purpose of interpreting the MAIF Agreement
- Public discussion paper - Adoption of the Globally Harmonised System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals in Respect to Domestic and Consumer Chemicals Including Pesticides
- Quality Use of Pathology Program (QUPP) Historical Reports
- Reforming the Australian
health care system:
the role of government. Occasional Papers: New Series Number 1
- Regulatory Plan 2009-10
- Regulatory Plan 2010-11
- Regulatory Plan 2011-2012
- Review of 2011 Gene Technology ACT (2000) - Public Submission
- Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000 by Anne Goddard
- Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000 from I F Turnbull
- Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000 from Slater & Gordon Lawyers on behalf of The Safe Food Institute
- Royal Perth Hospital Comments on the Gene Technology Review 2000
- Self-harm: Australian treatment guide for consumers and carers, 2005
- Stigma and discrimination
- Strong Fathers Strong Families
- Submission by Anne Goddard regarding Terms of Reference in the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission by Dr Monica Leggett to the Gene Technology Act 2000 review
- Submission by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission by The University of Newcastle for the 2011 Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from Bayer CropScience to the Gene Technology Act 2000 Review
- Submission from AgForce to the Statutory Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited reviewing the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from an Individual to the Review of Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from an Individual to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from AusBiotech to the 2011 Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000 (the Act)
- Submission from Beatrice Ludwig to the 2011 Review of the Gene Technology Act
- Submission from Croplife Australia to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foresty to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from Elizabeth Hamilton to the 2011 Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from Graham Wearne to the Gene Technology Act 2000 Review
- Submission from Individuals at the Institutional Biosafety Committee to the Gene Technology Act 2000 Review
- Submission from Individuals to the Review of Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from Monsanto to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from Nuseed Australia to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from Peter Olson to the Review of Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from Queensland Institute of Medical Research to the Review of Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from the Australian Seed Federation to the Statutory Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and The Commonealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to the 2011 Review of the Gene Technology Act (2000)
- Submission from the Gene Technology Interdepartmental Committee to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from the GM-free Australia Alliance to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from the Grains Research and Development Corporation to the 2011 Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia WA Inc to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from the National Farmers' Federation review to the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from the Producers Forum to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission from the Western Australian Farmers Federation Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Submission to the Gene Technology Act 2000 Review by Mary Gardner
- Submission to the Gene Technology Act 2000 Review from the Minister for Primary Industries and Water
- Submission to the Review of Gene Technology Act 2000 from Phil Aitken
- Submission to the Review of Gene Technology Act 2000 from Organic and Biodynamic Meats
- Submission to the Review of Gene Technology Act 2000 from Tracey Skippings
- Sumbission from Individuals from the Wambyn Organic Olive Farm for the Gene Technology Act 2000
- Sumission to the Department of Health and Ageing from the Pioneer Hi-Bred Australia Pty Ltd to the Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000 (the Act)
- Technology, Health and Health Care. Occasional Papers: Health Financing Series Volume 5
- The Ageing Australian Population and Future Health Costs: 1996-2051. Occasional Papers: New Series Number 7
- The Australian Government Response to the 2002 Reviews of the National HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C Strategies
- The Dairy Industry Submission to the Statutory Review of the Gene Technology Acy 2000
- The National Hepatitis C Strategy 2005-2008
- The National Slips and Falls Prevention Project
- The Quality of Australian Healthcare: Current Issues and Future Directions. Occasional Papers: Health Financing Series Volume 6
- The Use of Antibiotics in Food-Producing Animals: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Animals and Humans
- Using Mathematical Models to Assess Responses to an Outbreak of an Emerged Viral Respiratory Disease
- Valuing the past ... investing in the future- Evaluation of the National HIV /AIDS Strategy 1993-94 to 1995-96
- Trachoma Surveillance Report 2006 to 2010
- Regulatory Plan 2005-06
- Regulatory Plan 2004-05
- Regulatory Plan 2003-04