Gene technology

Gene technology in Australia

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GM crops in Australia

Genetically modified (GM) cotton and carnations have been grown commercially in Australia since 1996. The cotton has been modified so it is insect resistant, herbicide tolerant or both, while the carnations have been modified to produce a blue-violet colour that is sought after in the cut-flower industry.

The Gene Technology Regulator approved the commercial production of GM canola, modified for herbicide tolerance, in 2003. However, the Gene Technology Act 2000 only regulates for human health, safety and the environment, not for trade and marketing issues.

The governments of Australia's canola growing states (New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania) decided that they needed more time to consider trade issues related to GM canola, and so placed bans, or moratoria, on commercial GM canola crops.

GM canola was grown commercially in Australia for the first time in 2008 when New South Wales and Victoria lifted their bans. In 2009 Western Australia allowed 860 hectares of GM canola to be planted in a small commercial trial, and now allows commercial growing of GM canola crops.

Blue rose

In 2009 the Gene Technology Regulator approved the commercial release of a GM rose, which has been modified to produce a blue-violet colour.

Current crop trials

Field trials of pineapple, papaya, wheat, barley and sugarcane are currently underway in Australia. These crops have been modified for insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, colour, oil production, sugar composition, flowering and fruit development. Gene technology research is also underway in Australia involving bananas, rice, corn, canola and safflower.

Livestock research

Researchers are using gene technology to improve the efficiency of  animal production in Australia. This research, carried out by universities, Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) and CSIRO, uses the natural genetic variation in livestock populations to selectively breed animals that produce more meat, milk and fibre.

Genetic technologies are also used to develop new vaccines and treatments for preventing and diagnosing livestock diseases.

Research which involves the genetic modification of animals to benefit animal and human health is also being conducted.

Record of GMOs and GM product dealings

Details of all GMO and GM product approvals in Australia are available on the Record of GMOs and GM product dealings maintained by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator and available on their website.

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