Clarifying the regulation of genome editing in Australia: situation for genetically modified organisms

Abstract

Australia’s gene technology regulatory scheme (GT Scheme) regulates activities with genetically modified organisms (GMOs, organisms modified by gene technology), including environmental releases. The scope of regulation, i.e. what organisms are and are not regulated, is set by the Gene Technology Act 2000 (GT Act) and GT Regulations 2001 (GT Regulations). The GT Act gives broad, overarching definitions of ‘gene technology’ and ‘GMO’ but also provides for exclusions and inclusions in the GT Regulations. Whether organisms developed with genome editing techniques are, or should be, regulated under countries’ national GMO laws is the subject of debate globally. These issues are also under active consideration in Australia. A technical review of the GT Regulations was initiated in 2016 to clarify the regulatory status of genome editing. Proposed draft amendments are structured around whether the process involves introduction of a nucleic acid template. If agreed, amendments would exclude from regulation organisms produced using site directed nuclease (SDN) 1 techniques while organisms produced using oligonucleotide mutagenesis, SDN-2 or SDN-3 would continue to be regulated as GMOs. The review of the GT Regulations is still ongoing and no legislative changes have been made to the GT Regulations. A broader policy review of the GT Scheme was undertaken in 2017–2018 and as a result further work will be undertaken on the scope and definitions of the GT Act in light of ongoing developments.

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Fig. 1

(Adapted from OGTR 2016a)

Fig. 2

(After OGTR 2017b)

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Correspondence to Peter Thygesen.

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Note added in proof: The Gene Technology Regulations 2001 were amended on 4 April 2019, see https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2019L00573 Accessed 5 June 2019.

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Thygesen, P. Clarifying the regulation of genome editing in Australia: situation for genetically modified organisms. Transgenic Res 28, 151–159 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11248-019-00151-4

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