ALL genetic manipulation (GM) processes and the modified animals, plants and microbes they create must now be notified to the Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) for assessment, licensing and monitoring. Under the Gene Technology Act 2000, no release from a laboratory is allowed without a licence.[1]

But the federal government wants to change the rules of the GM game by ending the regulation of a whole class of new GM methods only invented in 2012.[2]

The OGTR says, “Organisms modified using site-directed nucleases without templates to guide genome repair (i.e. SDN-1) would not be regulated as GMOs.”[3] The use of SDN-2 and SDN-3 processes will continue to be regulated.

In response to public and scientific concern, Senator Janet Rice has tabled a motion in the Senate to disallow the government’s proposed deregulation. It will be debated on 17 September 2019, when ALP and Senate cross-bench support for the disallowance are essential. If her motion fails, deregulation will begin on October 8, 2019.

Please ask MPs and Senators to back disallowance, to stop Australia’s GM laws being gutted: OBJECT HERE

Key MPs to lobby individually

ALP

  • Hon Chris Bowen, MP (Shadow Health Minister) (02) 9604 0710 Chris.Bowen.MP@aph.gov.au
  • Hon Joel Fitzgibbon, MP (Shadow Agriculture Minister) (02) 4991 1022 Joel.Fitzgibbon.MP@aph.gov.au
  • Josh Wilson MP – (Shadow Asst Environment) (08) 9335 8555 Josh.Wilson.MP@aph.gov.au

One Nation

  • Pauline Hanson (07) 3221 7644 senator.hanson@aph.gov.au

Centre Alliance

  • Senator Stirling Griff (08) 8212 1409 senator.griff@aph.gov.au

Other cross benchers

  • Senator Jacqui Lambie (03) 6431 3112 senator.lambie@aph.gov.au
  • Senator Cory Bernardi (08) 8362 8600 senator.bernardi@aph.gov.au

Please call on all MPs and Senators to:

Disallow the proposed deregulation of SDN-1 GM processes and products
Continue requiring all GM organisms to be regulated under the Gene Technology Act 2000
Apply the precautionary principle to the development and release of GM organisms

Sidelining the OGTR before the new GM game even starts would allow a free-for-all where industry and science players make their own rules. This is reckless, unscientific and guts the Gene Technology Act.

With deregulation, radical new living GM organisms of all kinds would fly under the regulator’s radar, into our environment, farms and food, with the public also kept in the dark.

The new GM CRISPR[4] DNA cutting tools and their living products have a scant history of safe use. They also have many unpredictable off-target impacts in the complex genomes where they are used.

The European Union’s top court ruled that the new GM techniques pose similar risks to older GM methods and must be assessed for safety in the same way. The Austrian and Norwegian Governments commissioned reviews that agreed.

Production, marketing and export of GM-free food, fibre and fuel would become a lot harder, especially for the organic and biodynamic industries. Key markets such as Europe and China have zero tolerance for GM products and for any biological products they have not approved.

Several Asian and European countries and New Zealand will continue to regulate the new CRISPR GM processes and products and reject anything unapproved. China, Japan and others are also risk-averse to unapproved and unassessed foods which they have often rejected, costing US exporters and industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

Creating a regulatory vacuum around the new untried GM techniques would be a toxic mix. Please act now. ☐

Bob Phelps, Gene Ethics

References
[1] The Gene Technology Act 2000.
[2] The Gene Technology Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2019. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2019L00573/Download
[3] Technical Review of the Gene Technology Regulations 2001 – 2017-18 Amendment Proposals
http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/amendment%20proposals-1
[4] CRISPR: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, DNA sequences found in the genomes of micro-organisms.

13/8/2019