Federal and state responsibilities
The Australian Government's Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) in Canberra is responsible for regulating all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) through the Gene Technology Act 2000. All Australian state and territory governments have agreed that the OGTR is the only authority that can make decisions on licence applications for gene technology activities.
In it's role, the OGTR makes a decision about the release of a GMO based on a thorough assessment of the potential impacts on human health and the environment. Following an assessment, the OGTR has the ability to licence a GMO for general release into the environment. More detailed information about the OGTR and its assessment processes can be found at the OGTR.
Other Commonwealth agencies regulate the sale, labelling, import and safety of commercial GMOs and GM products, in the same way they would handle similar items produced using traditional techniques. For instance, the Therapeutic Goods Administration regulates GM medicines, while GM food is regulated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. See Other Commonwealth regulators.
State / territory responsibilities
The OGTR has no power to assess trade or agricultural risk posed by gene technology. Once a GMO is approved and licensed by the OGTR for commercial (general) release, it is then up to the states and territories to consider the potential impacts associated with production and marketing of a GMO on its markets and trade and to take the necessary actions to manage the risks.
Victoria's Minister for Agriculture is the lead Minister for controlling the release of OGTR approved GM crops in Victoria. To provide the powers to undertake this role, the Victorian Government introduced the Control of Genetically Modified Crops Act 2004 ("the GM Crops Act"). The GM Crops Act provides the Minister with legislative control over the planting of GM crops in Victoria and is in keeping with the national regulatory scheme for GM crops.
All other Australian states and territories, with the exception of Queensland and the Northern Territory, have introduced legislation to control the release of OGTR approved GMOs with the specific purpose of protecting markets and trade.