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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (17 June) . . Page.. 1919 ..



A declaration, as proposed, will send a very mixed signal to the emerging biotechnology sector in the ACT, potentially raising doubts about the ACT government's commitment to biotechnology research. Therefore, such a moratorium would be more likely to discourage it, by making science funding bodies more reluctant to invest in the ACT. This might have the flow-on effect of research business shifting to other states that are more open to biotechnology.

However, given the geographical location of the ACT, the government does see merit in maintaining good neighbourly relations with New South Wales on this issue. It is our understanding that New South Wales is looking to introduce a three-year moratorium on the commercial release of GM food crops in the near future. It is appropriate for the ACT to stay in line with New South Wales, both because it is good public policy and also to reduce potential complexities for primary producers in each jurisdiction.

Thus the ACT will declare a three-year moratorium on the commercial release of GM food crops and is proposing to introduce legislation to that effect in the Assembly. The ACT government will annually review the moratorium, in light of developments in the marketing and trade environment.

Two of the recommendations of the committee, Nos 13 and 19, propose amendments to the ACT Gene Technology Bill. The government will not support these proposed changes, on the grounds that they would result in the ACT legislation falling out of line with the gene technology legislation of the Commonwealth and other states.

The states and territories agreed on the national scheme for regulating gene technology, and state law, and therefore territory law, must remain consistent with the Commonwealth act to be declared a corresponding state law.

The other recommendations with which the government disagrees cover mainly issues of a technical nature relating to the regulatory system, such as risk assessment processes, licensing, appeals and insurance. We consider that these issues are adequately addressed in the Commonwealth legislation and the national regulatory framework. As a participant in national arrangements for the regulation of gene technology to protect human health and safety and the environment, the government is committed to ensuring that appropriate caution is exercised under the regulatory framework.

The government believes that the ACT Gene Technology Bill 2002, in conjunction with the Commonwealth act, adequately meets the objectives of providing for an effective national regulatory system that is open, transparent and accountable. The government believes that the measures in the bill ensure a cautious, comprehensive and rigorous national approach to gene technology and GMOs, with scientifically based decisions providing the community with confidence in the system.

I commend the government's response to the Assembly.

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