Dealings involving an Intentional Release (DIR) of GMOs into the Australian environment are dealings with GMOs which take place outside of containment facilities.
The majority of DIR licences issued to date have been for experimental field trials (limited and controlled releases) or general/commercial releases of GM plants. A small number of DIR licences have also been issued for GM vaccines for human or veterinary use, either for trial (limited and controlled release) or general/commercial release. The release of GM animals would also require a DIR licence.
DIRs are included on the GMO Record.
You can see the list of applications and licences for DIRs online. You can also see a list of DIR applications currently under consideration.
How are DIR licence applications evaluated?
Each DIR licence application is subject to a comprehensive, science-based, case-by-case analysis process.
The Gene Technology Act 2000 (Sections 48–67) sets out a clear process that the Gene Technology Regulator (the Regulator) must follow to:
- prepare a risk assessment and risk management plan (RARMP)
- make a decision about whether or not to issue a licence.
It also addresses risk management measures (that would be covered by the licence conditions) to manage any identified risks.
As the Regulator evaluates the DIR application and prepares a RARMP, the Regulator consults with:
- all state and territory governments
- relevant local council(s)
- Australian Government departments and agencies including: the Department of Agriculture (formerly the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service), Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the National Industrial Chemical Notification and Assessment Scheme and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment
- the Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee.
The Regulator notifies the public of the DIR application being received.
After the draft RARMP is prepared, the Regulator invites submissions about the RARMP from the above groups as well as the public through fact sheets and other communiqués.
This consultation process provides an opportunity for a diverse group of people, including the public, to have direct input into the decision-making process.
The Regulator provides a summary of the evaluation process:
Fact sheet - Evaluation process - How we regulate the intentional release of GM crops and other GMOs into the environment
How long does it take to evaluate a DIR licence application?
The Regulator must decide whether to issue a DIR licence within 255 working days*.
Some DIR applications which are principally for research and meet criteria for a ‘limited and controlled release’ application (outlined in Section 50A of the Act) may qualify for a streamlined process. The Regulator decides which applications qualify for that process on a case-by-case basis, based on the information in each one’s DIR application.
For applications identified as limited and controlled releases, the Regulator will decide within (from the Gene Technology Regulations 2001):
- 150 days for applications for which the Regulator has not identified a significant risk
- 170 days for applications for which the Regulator has identified a significant risk.
*Note about ‘working days’: These periods do not include weekends or public holidays in the Australian Capital Territory, nor do they include days during which the Regulator is formally seeking further information from the applicant about the application.