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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

20 November 2005

Research and investment in biodiversity

The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, today announced new environmental regulations to control the use of Commonwealth genetic resources while promoting research and investment.

Senator Campbell announced the new regulations on the eve of AusBiotech 2005, a major conference of the biotechnology industry and investors from all over the world, being held in Perth.

“Australia is home to more than two million species of plants and animals, with more than 80 per cent found nowhere else in the world,” Senator Campbell said.

“These new regulations will not only protect the environment but they will prevent the unauthorised commercialisation of valuable biological resources from Commonwealth lands and waters.

“They will ensure that it’s no longer possible to use our genetic resources for R&D without permission and an equitable return to the Australian people.”

Senator Campbell said there was a growing global market in the use of genetic and biochemical resources from plants, animals and microbial life. Global sales in 2000 of products derived from marine species amounted to AUD$137 billion.

So far only a small proportion of Australia’s species have been examined for their potential for new products. The regulations, declared under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, will protect their scientific and economic value.

“Most importantly, the regulations mean certainty for investment. The biotechnology industry has huge long-term potential for the Australian economy,” Senator Campbell said.

“Scientists who are engaged in non-commercial research will welcome special streamlined arrangements introduced to obtain access to Commonwealth owned or managed genetic materials.”

The regulations implement existing Government policy and Commonwealth commitments under the 2002 agreement between all Australian governments on the management of Australia’s genetic resources. The regulations also implement Australia’s obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“Australia is setting a new benchmark in balancing the interests of the biotechnology industry, the science community, managers of biodiversity and the Australian community,” Senator Campbell said.

The new environmental regulations will come into force on 1 December 2005.

Media Contacts:
Renae Stoikos, media adviser, Senator Campbell’s office, 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434
Margot Marshall, public affairs, Department of the Environment and Heritage 02 6274 2068 or 0418 624 847

Commonwealth of Australia