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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

21 January 2000

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS


Federal Environment Minister, Senator Robert Hill, today released for public comment draft amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act which will provide for the environmental assessment of proposed releases of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

"The Commonwealth Government gave a commitment in 1999 that it would introduce amendments to the EPBC Act to ensure a rigorous environmental assessment of GMO proposals. I am pleased to release draft amendments which will give effect to that commitment, and look forward to receiving public input on what is an increasingly important issue for the community," Senator Hill said.

"The draft amendments are designed to operate in conjunction with the draft Gene Technology Bill 2000, which was recently released by the Commonwealth Government for public exposure. The draft Gene Technology Bill 2000 provides for the establishment of the Gene Technology Regulator as an independent statutory office holder with powers to regulate GMOs.

"The amendments to the EPBC Act provide that a proposed release of a GMO which would require approval from the Regulator will be subject to an environmental assessment process if it poses a significant risk of harm to the environment. The Regulator will be required to take into account the advice of the Environment Minister before deciding whether to grant a licence.

"The proposed amendments further demonstrate the Government's commitment to ensuring that the public interest is properly taken into account in relation to the regulation of GMOs.

"The Government places a high priority on the development of a prosperous and innovative biotechnology industry that will generate wealth and employment for Australians. We also recognise that the successful development of a world class biotechnology industry must be underpinned by a transparent regulatory regime which ensures that dealings with GMOs will not compromise public health and safety or the environment," Senator Hill said.

Comments on the draft amendments are due by 12 March 2000. Copies of the draft amendments and explanatory material are available on request.

Media contact: Rod Bruem (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia