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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3390 ..

MRS CROSS (4.23): I rise to speak in support of Ms Tucker's amendments to the Gene Technology Bill 2002. I have been prompted to speak on this bill by a comment made in the government's response to the Standing Committee on Health Report No 2. This is the report from the committee that investigated the Gene Technology Bill we are currently debating.

The final paragraph of the government's response is a classic. It shows exactly what the government thinks of the opinions of other members in this place. I quote.

As outlined above, the Government does not agree to any of the proposed amendments to the Bill outlined in the Committee's report. We commend the ACT Gene Technology Bill 2002 to the ...Assembly in its present form.

So much for consultation and the working together of members of this Assembly!

In the early 1970s, there was a conference in Stockholm, where scientists met to discuss the emerging new area of science called genetic engineering. One of the outcomes of this conference was an agreement that genetic engineering was to be limited, and there was not to be swapping of genes between organisms, or manipulation of genes within an organism.

The main concern of the Stockholm conference was the fear that genetic engineering would have grave consequences for the environment. The scientists present were worried that there was no way to test the produced organisms in the environment without putting the environment at risk. As a result, they chose to limit their work to laboratories, and try to develop things as safely as possible. Within years, this went by the by, with the revelation that there was a great deal of money to be made from patenting genetically engineered organisms which could be used commercially.

There have been some very good and important developments in this area since then. The genetically engineered bacteria used to clean up oil spills was one of the first to become widely known, but there are others with which we are all involved every day. Genetically modified bacteria produce the enzyme amylase, which is used in the refining of white sugar. I am sure we have all consumed enormous quantities of white sugar over the years. It is not only in tea and coffee-just about everything has sugar in it. None of us has, as yet, grown two heads.

Diabetics are pleased to have the option of insulin produced by genetically modified organisms, rather than being limited to insulin that is porcine or pig based. Today we have many genetically modified organisms, used in many different areas. They make a lot of money for the companies which develop them. The development of gene technology legislation has taken years in Australia and the bill we are dealing with here today is the end result of this process for the ACT.

I am aware that this bill has not taken many, if any, of the committee's recommendations seriously. The recommendation which particularly concerns me is the one going back to the original problem faced in the 1970s-the worry about the effects of genetically engineered or modified organisms on the environment in the long term.

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