Regular news from state and federal governments.
- Bracks Government goes solo with Wallaby Genome project
- GM moratoria a competitive loss says AusBiotech
- New $1.5 million labs open at National Neuroscience Facility
- NSW approves research trials for GM canola
April 1 – A last minute offer from the Bracks Government saved a AU$12 million study of the tammar wallaby genome after the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments declined to match Victoria's original $1.5 million contribution. The Victorian Government will provide an extra $3 million to provide a total of $4.5 million along with funding partners NIH ($6 million), AGRF ($1 million) and Applied Biosystems ($500,000). The NIH planned to embark on a similar study of North America's only marsupial, the opossum, but was alerted to the tammar wallaby study and offered to collaborate if Australia would contribute $6 million by the end of March 2004. With no funds forthcoming from other Government sources Victoria increased its contribution so the AGRF could meet the NIH proposed deadline. The Bracks Government backing of the project means Australian research will take place in Victoria.
[Source: Media Release]
April 1 – Australia's biotechnology industry organisation AusBiotech released a statement citing disappointment in the coordinated state government decisions to place moratoria on GM crops in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Legislation varies between states with Victoria and South Australia imposing 4-year and 3-year bans respectively, although Victoria allowing for small-scale research trials. AusBiotech states the decisions have a wider impact than the multinational companies directly affected at present, affecting also the competitiveness of Australia as a global biotechnology and agriscience country. 'Not only have biotechnology colleagues questioned the transparency of our government processes, but also the state government' confidence in the national regulatory body the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator', said Dr Tony Coulepis, Executive Director of AusBiotech.
[Source: Media Release]
April 4 – The Federal Minister for Science today opened the new National Neuroscience Facility laboratories at the University of Melbourne to be used to fight ageing, pain and brain disorders. The $1.5 million labs bring the National Neuroscience Facility to the forefront of research technologies with the cellular neurophysiology labs containing equipment and expertise at a level that is only available in a handful of places around the world. The Facility is set up to make such complex technology and scientific teams more accessible in eight key scientific areas: Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease; Spinal cord and brain injury; Epilepsy; Schizophrenia and Depression; Addiction; Pain; and Memory Enhancement. Access to the laboratories will be given to credible researchers and companies in relevant fields.
[Source: Ministerial Release]
April 1 – The NSW State Government will allow three small research trials for GM canola, but ruled out a 3,000 hectare trial sought by Monsanto Co., Bayer and subsidiary BayerCropScience, and the Australian Oilseeds Federation. The three small trials will cover no more than 420 hectares and will test different varieties of GM canola plants against traditional canola. The trials mark the first objective and independently evaluated on-farm research comparison of GM and non-GM canola in Australia. Farming organisations and grain holding groups have expressed concern that abandoning GM technology will place Australia far behind its overseas competitors. The Federal Office of the Gene Technology Regulator has determined that GM canola is safe for human health and the environment. Under current NSW legislation, a moratorium exists on the commercial cultivation of GM food crops until 2006. Last week Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia announced bans on commercial planting of GM canola, citing ongoing deep divisions and uncertainty within the industry, the farming sector and regional communities about the impact of GM crops on markets.