Australian regulatory curbs on genetic modification to be eased

Australia is set to reform how it regulates new genetic engineering techniques, which experts say will help to dramatically speed up health and agriculture research.

According to a report from the ABC, the changes are expected to enable agricultural scientists to breed higher yielding crops faster and cheaper, or ones resistant to drought and disease.

Australia’s gene technology regulator Raj Bhula has proposed reducing regulations around gene editing techniques such as CRISPR, following a 12 month technical review into the current regulations.

The most radical change put forward by the regulator is that some of the more efficient and newer genetic technologies, known as gene editing, would not be considered “genetic modification”.

“With gene editing you don’t always have to use genetic material from another organism, it is just editing the [existing] material within the organism,” Dr Bhula said.

“All of our regulatory frameworks and laws have been established based on people putting unrelated genetic material into another organism.

“Whereas this process is just manipulation within the organism and not introducing anything foreign.”

Under current Australian legislation, a genetically modified organism (GMO) is broadly defined as an organism that has been modified by gene technology, and is subject to heavy regulation.

Genetically modified crops have been available for decades and some are already widely used in Australian agriculture, particularly cotton and canola.

Scimex  reports expert reaction HERE. 

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