ACIAR has the following policy for funding of collaborative ACIAR-funded projects involving genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)
- ACIAR endorses the use of biotechnology (including genetic engineering) as a valid tool in the quest for improved global food security and for reducing the environmental footprint of terrestrial food production. It can potentially make a significant contribution to characteristics needed in crops produced in developing countries, such as increased crop yields and tolerance to stresses, improved processing and postharvest quality and storage life, and improved nutritional quality. Engineered herbicide-resistance in crops can also reduce labour costs while introduction of insect tolerance can bring farmer health and environmental benefits through reduced insecticide requirements.
- ACIAR recognises that crop genetic engineering is not a ‘silver bullet’ but rather one of a set of approaches in the development of improved crop varieties. ACIAR will support genetically-modified approaches on a case-by-case basis for the manipulation of traits that are of major importance but are unable to be modified efficiently by conventional plant breeding.
- Collaborative projects involving GMOs will be initiated at the specific request of the particular ACIAR partner country. Proposed projects involving GMOs will be in keeping with the outcome of formal consultations or agreed priorities of the partner country. Before agreement to collaborate, approval of relevant government policymakers and regulatory authorities (as well as the research partners) must be secured.
- Technologies will be developed and tested only in countries where effective biosafety, regulatory and enforcement systems for the use of the GMOs are in force. These systems will be established before research commences and address risk to the environment, human health and food safety, and be in keeping with laws and regulations in Australia (Gene Technology Act 2000) and the partner countries, as well as relevant international conventions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity. Before collaborative research can commence, the Australian Government requires that biosafety systems are in place that satisfy s.160 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). The EPBC Act is the Australian Government’s central piece of environmental legislation, and also applies for work funded by the aid program and carried out overseas, and may apply to some Australian domestic research. The EPBC Act requires that (unless funding agencies are assured that there is no significant environmental risk from project operations), they are required to obtain advice, and if necessary, approval from the Commonwealth Environment Minister before the project can proceed.
- ACIAR commits to collaboration with partners to link with extension systems to ensure that improved varieties and technologies are disseminated. Impact pathways are just as important for the subsequent adoption of genetically-modified crop technology as for the products of conventional plant breeding.