We are reviewing how the Food
Standards Code applies to food derived using new breeding techniques.
New breeding techniques (NBTs) refer
to a variety of new approaches in plant and animal breeding that were not
in use when Standard 1.5.2 ‒ Food produced using gene technology ‒
was first developed nearly 20 years ago.
In February 2018, we released a
consultation paper seeking feedback from the community on whether food derived
from NBTs should be captured for pre-market safety assessment approval under
Standard 1.5.2 and whether the definitions for ‘food produced using gene
technology’ and ‘gene technology’ in Standard 1.1.2‒2 should be changed to
improve clarity about which foods require pre-market approval.
The period for comment on the review has
In August 2018, we released a preliminary report summarising the views of
submitters in response to the consultation paper, along
with submissions (see more information below).
We are carefully considering the consultation outcomes and the range of options available for progressing our work on new breeding techniques.
We aim to report back later this year, when we will release our final report on the review, including our recommendations
on whether to prepare a proposal to amend the Code.
In the Code, the
definition of food produced using gene technology refers to the technique where
new pieces of DNA are inserted into a genome to create a genetically modified
organism. Since this definition was developed we have seen new techniques
emerge, some of which produce results that are almost identical to conventional
breeding methods such as cross-breeding and mutation breeding.
What are the techniques?
There are a range of techniques for
modifying genomes. We have grouped these techniques based on the outcomes
produced in the final product:
Techniques such as transgenesis,
cisgenesis and intragenesis involve taking a piece of DNA from one organism and
inserting it into the genome of another organism. The result is a genome that
contains new DNA.
Techniques that are used to produce
null-segregants involve an initial organism that has new DNA inserted into the
genome (outcome 1 above). The new DNA helps with the breeding process (e.g.
makes it faster) but serves no purpose once the objective of the breeding has
been achieved. Towards the end of the breeding process only
organisms that have not inherited the new DNA are selected for food production
These techniques (e.g. CRISPR &
ZFN) involve deleting a specific piece of DNA or editing of the DNA without
adding new DNA.
Is this review a proposal to change the
No. If at the end of the review, we
determine that the Code needs to be changed, a proposal would need to be
developed. Proposals involve a separate process involving further public
Expert Advisory Group
An Expert Advisory Group on New Breeding
Techniques (EAG NBT) has been established to provide us with expert advice on
issues relevant to the review, such as the current science relating to NBTs and
potential food safety issues associated with the use of NBTs.
This advice, together with feedback received on
our consultation paper and other sources such as internal expert advice and
scientific literature will help inform our decision.
Prof. Barbara Burlingame – Massey University, New
Dr Allan Green – CSIRO Agriculture and Food,
Prof. John Knight – Otago University, New
Dr Goetz Laible – AgResearch, New
Dr Rob Lanfear – Australian National University,
Prof. Dianne Nicol – University of Tasmania,
Prof. Brian Priestly – Monash University,
Dr Sally Symes – Victorian Dept. of Health &
Human Services, Australia
Dr Mark Tizard – CSIRO Australian Animal Health
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the
hereditary genetic material for most living organisms. DNA is present in cells
in the form of a double-stranded helix that is composed of long strands of
nucleotides. The unique sequence of nucleotides within the DNA molecule stores
the genetic information.
The unit of heredity transmitted from
generation to generation during sexual or asexual reproduction. More generally,
the term is used in relation to the transmission and inheritance of particular
identifiable traits. The simplest gene consists of a segment of nucleic acid
that encodes an individual protein or RNA.
Genetically Modified Organism
Often used to describe organisms
that have been modified using gene
technology. In plants, GMOs commercially available include
corn (field and sweet), soybeans, sugar beets, cotton, alfalfa, papaya, squash,
canola and potatoes. Farmers choose to use GM seeds to reduce crop damage from
weeds, diseases and insects, as well as from extreme weather conditions, such as
The entirety of an organism’s hereditary
information, containing all of the biological information needed to build and
maintain a living example of that organism. An exact copy of the entire genome
of the organism is in almost every cell.
Form the basic structural unit of nucleic
acids (DNA and RNA). They are composed of a phosphate group, a nitrogenous base,
and a sugar (deoxyribose or ribose). For all types of living organisms, there
are four types of bases in DNA: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and
thymine (T). Thymine is replaced by Uracil (U) in RNA.
RNA or ribonucleic acid is chemically
similar to DNA in that it is composed of long strands of nucleotides. Unlike DNA
however it is typically present in a single stranded form. RNA plays an
essential role in decoding DNA and directing the synthesis of proteins. RNA is
also involved in regulating the expression of genes.
Organisms that have had genes from other
species inserted into their genome. Transgenic means that one or more DNA
sequences from another species have been introduced by artificial means.
Transgenic plants can be made by introducing foreign DNA into a variety of