Documents relating to the unapproved release of genetically modified petunias in Australia

Richard Smith made this Freedom of Information request to Gene Technology Regulator

The request was partially successful.

From: Richard Smith

Delivered

Dear Gene Technology Regulator,

The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator has recently issued an Inadvertent Dealings licence to allow disposal of illegally imported and commercially available cultivars of a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) which have not been approved for commercial release in Australia, namely Petunias genetically modified for altered flower colour.

The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator notes that the following 4 genetic areas have been modified in the GMO Petunias which are the subject of the issued Inadvertent Dealings licence:

1. p35S from Cauliflower mosaic virus
2. A1 from Zea mays, i.e. corn or maize
3. pNOS from Agrobacterium tumefaciens, the causal agent of crown gall disease.
4. nptII, an Antibiotic resistance marker gene from E.Coli bacteria (Escherichia coli).

Considering that it is probable that these unapproved Genetically Modified Petunia cultivars would have been planted and grown in residential properties and community facilities, as opposed to in contained fields & agricultural sites remote from urban areas, there is a higher likelihood that people have been inadvertently exposed. This level of potential contact with an unapproved GMO is an issue that I consider to be of significant public interest.

I therefore request the following Government Information:

a) Documents describing how and when the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator first became aware of the presence of unapproved genetically modified Petunias being grown in Australia without approval;

b) Documents describing how the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator established the range and extent of the release of the unapproved Petunias across Australia;

c) Documents relating to assessments, observations or inspections made by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator of the number of residential homes & properties where the unapproved Genetically Modified Petunia cultivars have been planted, grown and handled by Australians;

d) Documents describing how the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator has come to the view that it is confident that only the Genetically Modified Petunia cultivars it has mentioned (i.e. "African Sunset", "Trilogy Red", "Trilogy Deep Purple", "Trilogy Mango", "Raspberry Blast", "Candy Blast" (also known as "Rose Blast Charm") and "Colourworks Homare") have been illegally imported and released without approval into Australia; and

e) Documents relating to any scientific research or studies commissioned or undertaken by Office of the Gene Technology Regulator into the impact on the Australian environment of this uncontrolled release of the unapproved GMO.

If this can be answered as informal request, please do so.

Otherwise, please proceed with this as a formal request under the Freedom of Information principles & framework, i.e. the Freedom of Information Act 1982 & other associated guidelines and regulations.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Smith

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From: CUTHBERTSON, Toni
Gene Technology Regulator

Thank you for your request. Please feel free to call this afternoon after 4pm or tomorrow anytime to discuss options for provision of information informally or through FOI means.

You can contact our office on free call 1800 181 030

Thank you

Regards
OGTR FOI Coordinator

Office of the Gene Technology Regulator
Australian Government Department of Health
T: 1800 181 030 | E: [Gene Technology Regulator request email]
Location: Pharmacy Guild House, 15 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
 
Postal: MDP 54, GPO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

The Department of Health acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to elders both past and present.  

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From: VOICEMAIL, OGTR
Gene Technology Regulator


Attachment image001.png
1K Download

Attachment Response Att 1 Evira webpage.pdf
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Attachment Response Att 2 Inadvertent Dealings licence.pdf
160K Download View as HTML

Attachment Response Att 3 GM petunia Risk Assessment.pdf
172K Download View as HTML

Attachment Response Att 4 NGIA webpage.pdf
213K Download View as HTML

Attachment Response Att 5 GM petunia disposal factsheet.pdf
164K Download View as HTML


Dear Richard

 

I refer to your email of 13 Jun 2017 to the Gene Technology Regulator,
regarding information about genetically modified (GM) petunias. I note
that you indicated that you would be happy for the request to be answered
informally, by which I presume you meant outside the requirements of the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act).

 

We wrote to you on 10 June 2017 and advised that we are happy to discuss
the information you seek, but have not heard from you further.
Consequentially, we have not at this stage treated your request for
information as a request for access to documents under the FOI Act and
have provided the following information.

 

On 8^th May this year, the OGTR was informed by an overseas company that
GM petunias had been shipped to Australia. Shortly before the report to
the OGTR, testing of petunias in Finland by the Finnish Food Safety
Authority (Evira) identified genetically modified varieties of petunia in
imported stock from Germany (Attachment 1 – Evira webpage). The GM petunia
was developed in Germany as part of a research program over 20 years ago.
This genetic material appears to have entered a commercial petunia
breeding program, and was subsequently exported to several countries
around the world.

 

The OGTR identified several varieties of GM petunia that entered the
Australian market and worked with nurseries to ensure appropriate disposal
of remaining stocks. This includes issuing of an Inadvertent Dealings
Licence to importing nurseries to allow handling and transport for
disposal of the GM plants (Attachment 2 – Inadvertent Dealing licence).
More information about GM petunias can be found at the OGTR webpage
http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/pub...

 

The OGTR has considered the possibility of petunia varieties not yet
confirmed as being present in Australia, and will continue investigations
to identify any other unauthorised varieties. This possibility is
reflected in the Inadvertent Dealing licence, which covers the Petunia
hybrida cultivar ‘African Sunset’ and any other petunia cultivar
containing the same introduced genetic modifications. According to the
information received by the OGTR this cultivar is representative of the
inserted genetic modification.

 

The OGTR has prepared a Risk Analysis with the finding that GM petunias do
not pose a risk to humans or the environment (Attachment 3 – Risk
Analysis).  There have been no other studies commissioned or undertaken
directly by the OGTR. The OGTR sourced information from other
jurisdictions, including the Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira), the
Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the United
Kingdom, and the United States Department of Agriculture. Based on
information obtained by the OGTR to date, none of these jurisdictions’
regulatory authorities have identified any risk to humans or the
environment posed by GM petunias. 

 

The OGTR is working with industry to manage the persistence of GM petunias
in Australia, with an emphasis on ensuring that these unapproved GMOs are
not sold or propagated by wholesalers/retailers. The OGTR has been working
cooperatively with the industry peak body, Nursery and Garden Industry
Australia Limited (NGIA), to ensure commercial growers, retailers and
suppliers in Australia are informed (Attachment 4 – NGIA webpage).

 

The OGTR also provides information on our website for industry or any
individual in Australia for how to appropriately handle GM petunias
(Attachment 5 – Disposal Factsheet).

 

Once you have considered the above information, should you seek access to
documents as provided by the FOI Act, please advise us in writing.

 

Please feel free to contact our office if you wish to discuss this
further.

 

Regards

 

Office of the Gene Technology Regulator

 

 

 

 

Attachment 1 Evira webpage

Attachment 2  Inadvertent Dealings Licence

Attachment 3  GM Petunia Risk Analysis

Attachment 4  NGIA webpage

Attachment 5  GM Petunia Disposal Factsheet

 

 

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Office of the Gene Technology Regulator

Australian Government Department of Health

T: 1800 181 030 | E: [Gene Technology Regulator request email]

Location: Pharmacy Guild House, 15 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600

 

Postal: MDP 54, GPO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

 

The Department of Health acknowledges the traditional owners of country
throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and
community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to elders
both past and present.  

 

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