SYDNEY — The Australian government has called for submissions for a complete overhaul of its regulations covering genetic technology — an overhaul that will end the current arrangement of relying on voluntary compliance with regulations.
The government advertised last week for submissions on the new regulatory framework to be sent to the gene technology section of the Department of Industry Science and Technology (DIST) by March 20.
Although there are few details available on just how Australia intends to regulate the field, pending consideration of the submissions, the announcement notes the government intends to establish a Gene Technology Office.
As an interim measure while the new system is being set up, the government will establish a Gene Technology Liaison Committee to advise on urgent gene technology issues.
At present, gene technology work is mainly overseen by a voluntary committee of scientists known as the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee (GMAC).
The regulatory work of the GMAC is widely seen as successful, and there have been no particular incidents in genetic technology or with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to spark this current move.
Instead, a spokeswoman for John Moore, minister for industry, science and technology, said the overhaul was prompted by concern that some types of genetically modified products are not addressed by current legislation, which covers agricultural and veterinary chemicals and pharmaceutical products. Compliance with current gene technology regulation also is voluntary.
The government's measure would ensure that all gene technology is covered by laws, the spokeswoman said.
A background paper issued by DIST for those intending to make a submission states that the overhaul will include the introduction of new legislation to cover GMOs and GMO products and provide statutory control of gene technology research.
Also, the GMAC will be subsumed into an expert scientific and technical advisory body for the proposed Gene Technology Office.
The background paper notes the regulatory arrangements will not cover foods and food ingredients derived from gene technology, as those are the responsibility of the Australia-New Zealand Food Standards Council. A regulatory regime for food products is now being considered by that council.
The paper also states that human gene therapy issues will not be covered by the Australian commonwealth proposals.