Gene technology legislation

National Gene Technology Scheme

Gene technology is 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 regulated via a nationally consistent legislative scheme. The scheme is made up of

The object of the gene technology legislation 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 between the Australian Government and each state and territory.

All Australian jurisdictions contributed to developing the scheme and legislation.

South Australia

In South Australia, the South Australia Gene Technology Act 2001 and the South Australia Gene Technology Regulations 2017 mirrors the Commonwealth legislation.

The Minister for Health has responsibility for the SA Gene Technology Act and Regulations.

Genetically Modified Products

Genetically modified products are derived or produced from genetically modified organisms which are not alive. These products include food, medicines, agricultural and industrial chemicals. For example, a purified protein derived from a genetically modified bacteria. 

The use of genetically modified products is regulated by other agencies, such as the:

Genetically modified products are only regulated under gene technology legislation if there is no existing product regulator.

Genetically Modified Food

Genetically modified food contains an ingredient which is, produced using gene technology. 

Food must be labelled as 'genetically modified' if it:

  • contains novel DNA and/or novel protein
  • has altered characteristics.

Many highly processed foods such as oils are not required to be labelled as 'genetically modified'.

Standard 1.5.2 in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code sets out permissions and conditions for the sale and use of genetically modified food. These include labelling and other specific information requirements for foods produced using gene technology.

As part of the national system, South Australia contributes to the assessment of these foods for safety and labelling issues.

Genetically Modified Crops

The South Australia Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004 provides for areas designated areas:

  • to cultivate a specified class of crop
  • where specified class of crops cannot be cultivated
  • where no genetically modified food crops may be cultivated

The Act also provides protections regarding the spread of genetically modified plant material and for powers to regulate the growing of genetically modified food crops.

South Australia

Genetically modified food crops may be cultivated in South Australia, except on Kangaroo Island.

The Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development has responsibility for the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act.