GM Crops Act
Control of GM cultivation through orders
The Control of Genetically Modified Crops Act 2004, which came into effect on 12 May 2004, provides for the creation of Orders under which a part or all of the State of Victoria may be declared as an area where specified activities, or dealings, involving some or all GM crops or related material may be controlled or prohibited. It allows for the identity preservation, for marketing purposes, of crops as either GM or non-GM.
The GM Crops Act is broad in its scope to ensure that the Government has the power to deal with any aspect of the utilisation of GM crops that may negatively impact on the market competitiveness of any product. It is non-prescriptive to ensure that any regulatory response can be tailored to a particular crop and/or a particular region.
Exemption to an order
The GM Crops Act also provides for exemptions to an Order, as determined by the Minister for Agriculture. The exemption provision can be used to provide industry with the opportunity to demonstrate any agronomic benefits associated with GM crops, under conditions designed specifically to ensure that such research does not damage markets for agricultural products.
Any request for an exemption is considered on a case by case basis and, if approved, must be conducted under strict control conditions.
Authorised officers and offences
The GM Crops Act provides for the appointment of Authorised Officers to oversee any trial activities, closely monitor trial sites and to audit activity reports. Officers may also apply to the Magistrates' Court for the forfeiture and destruction of GM crops or GM crop related material if an Order has been contravened. The GM Crops Act also provides for offences for contravening an Order.
Liability in relation to damage that may result from the growing and use of GM crops and other GM organisms is an issue that has been of concern to a number of gene technology stakeholder groups. The GM Crops Act has provision to ensure proper accountability where there are risks to markets. This accountability includes a specific offence for gene technology providers who sell a genetically modified organism to a person knowing that the person intends to use the genetically modified organism in contravention of an Order made under the legislation.