SA Releases Draft Gene Technology Amendment Bill

Thursday 6 May 2021 @ 11.51 a.m. | Legal Research

The South Australian Government released the draft Gene Technology (Adoption of Commonwealth Amendments) Amendment Bill 2021 (SA) (“the Draft Bill”) for public comment. Consultations on the Draft Bill closed on 19 April 2021. The Draft Bill proposes amendments to the Gene Technology Act 2001 (SA) (“the SA Act”).

Gene Technology Legislation

As outlined on the SAHealth website, gene technology is defined as:

“any technique that modifies genes or any other genetic material to produce a genetically modified organism (GMO) such as a bacteria or plant”

Gene technology is currently regulated via a nationally consistent legislative scheme. The scheme is made up of the Gene Technology Act 2000 (Cth) ("the Commonwealth Act"), the Gene Technology Regulations 2001 (Cth), and corresponding state and territory legislation.

The Commonwealth Act provides for the regulation of processes that use gene technology. This includes medical and agricultural research. The SA Act currently mirrors the Commonwealth legislation to ensure a model of national consistency. However, currently, every time there is a change to the Commonwealth Act, the SA Act must undertake a full Parliamentary process to adopt the change.

SA Health describes that the aim of gene technology legislation, generally, is:

“to protect the health and safety of people, and the environment, by identifying risks posed by or as a result of gene technology, and by managing those risks through regulating certain dealings with genetically modified organisms”.

The scheme is supported by the intergovernmental Gene Technology Agreement 2001. With all jurisdictions contributing to development of the legislative scheme.

The Draft Bill

The proposed amendment will allow SA to adopt Commonwealth legislation in the future by a regulation making process. This is a simpler and quicker process that aims to reduce the period of time in which SA and Commonwealth regulation may be contradictory. This proposed amendments also aims to reduce the number of mistakes made due to lack of clarity.

Other Australian jurisdictions adopt the Commonwealth legislation using an “application of laws” approach which means any changes to the Commonwealth legislation are immediately adopted, without Parliamentary oversight. These amendments, on the other hand, will still enable the SA Government to choose whether or not to adopt a proposed amendment or to modify the change for SA. This ensures continued oversight for the best outcomes for the state. 

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[Draft] Gene Technology (Adoption of Commonwealth Amendments) Amendment Bill 2021 and supporting materials available from TimeBase's LawOne service.

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