Page 1151 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008

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There are concerns, there are problems; that is the case. But genetic engineering in crops and in livestock has been going on since man first sowed crops and put together the first grains of wheat and replanted them. Genetic engineering has been going on since that time. Once upon I time it was a long, drawn-out process of crossing and re-crossing and ensuring that you got strong strains. There are different ways of doing this now. Sometimes, of course, there are problems that arise and, yes, there should be safeguards. But I do think it is ironic, as I said this morning, that Dr Foskey is prepared to use her vote in favour of tomatoes’ rights but not in favour of human rights.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (5.55), in reply: I thank members for their contributions. I think that last line from Mrs Dunne probably was a bit of a simplification. These matters are difficult, but we do have to rest on our own consciences and what we think, and that is what has happened here today, which is the beauty of democracy.

The Gene Technology Amendment Bill 2007 represents the ACT component of a nationally consistent regulatory scheme for gene technology established by commonwealth, state and territory legislation. The background to this legislation is that an intergovernmental gene technology agreement was established in 2001, to which the territory is a party. The intergovernmental gene technology agreement 2001 committed jurisdictions to introducing nationally consistent legislation to establish and maintain a national regulatory scheme in relation to certain dealings with genetically modified organisms, GMOs.

The object of the bill is to protect the health and safety of people and to protect the environment by identifying risks posed by or as a result of gene technology, and by managing those risks through regulating certain dealings with GMOs. This is achieved by the establishment of an independent statutory office holder, the Gene Technology Regulator, who is charged with administering the act and making decisions about the development and use of GMOs. This bill has no bearing on the moratorium on genetically modified food crops, including canola, the current arrangements through which the ACT may prohibit the cultivation of designated GM food crops in the ACT. That is a separate issue, which the government will consider and provide advice on in due course.

The amending legislation is required by the statutory review of the commonwealth Gene Technology Act 2000, which was undertaken in 2005-06. The amending legislation is consistent with the ACT government’s response to the review report recommendations. The states and the ACT undertook to use their best endeavours to introduce corresponding legislation into their parliaments by 31 December 2007. The review found that the commonwealth act and the national regulatory scheme had worked well in the five years following introduction and that no major changes were required. However, it suggested a number of minor changes aimed at improving the operation of the commonwealth act at the margins.

In April 2006, the Gene Technology Ministerial Council, comprising state, territory and Australian government ministers, agreed that work should begin to implement the

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