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

7 September 2001


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today released draft regulations dealing with bioprospecting in Commonwealth areas.

The regulations will provide for management of access to genetic and biochemical material found in native plants and animals in Commonwealth areas, such as Commonwealth National Parks.

Discoveries flowing from the examination of the genetic and biochemical make of plants and animal could lead to new products such as drugs to fight disease, enzymes for industrial processes, natural insecticides, or sunscreens.

The regulations will require bioprospectors to obtain a permit to ensure the collection of biological material in Commonwealth areas is ecologically sustainable. The regulations also provide that a benefit-sharing agreement must be entered into by the access provider and the bioprospector.

The purpose of the benefit-sharing agreement is to ensure an equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the bioprospecting. There is a particular focus on ensuring that any commercial benefits arising from the use of indigenous knowledge about plants and animals is shared with the relevant indigenous communities.

Senator Hill said that the draft regulations were also designed to ensure streamlined access arrangements for the biotechnology industry. He said that the proposed regulations would minimise red tape and provide certainty for industry while safeguarding Australia's unique biodiversity.

Implementation of a cost-effective regulatory regime dealing with access to biological resources will underpin the continued development of the biotechnology sector, particularly in rural and regional Australia.

Senator Hill indicated that the scheme would be implemented in a manner that recognises the needs of scientists conducting non-commercial biological research.

The introduction of regulations dealing with access to biological resources will give effect to a specific commitment in the Commonwealth Government's National Biotechnology Strategy.

The draft regulations are available at:

The period for public comment ends on 5 October 2001. Senator Hill said the Government will take into account public comments before finalising and introducing the regulations.

7 September 2001

Contact: Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia