Biodiscovery in Queensland

About biodiscovery

Biodiscovery involves the collection and use of native biological material (e.g. plants, animals and other organisms) for commercial applications (e.g. pharmaceuticals and insecticides).

In Queensland, biodiscovery is regulated under the Biodiscovery Act 2004, which sets up a framework for obtaining consent to access resources and share the benefits of their use. The Biodiscovery in Queensland guideline provides information to help determine if an activity is considered biodiscovery.

Biodiversity in Queensland

Queensland is Australia's most naturally diverse state. It has 13 terrestrial and 14 marine bioregions supporting more than 1000 ecosystem types, including rainforests, savannas, rangelands, the dry tropics, wetlands and the coast.

Queensland has 70% of Australia's mammals, 80% of its native birds and more than 50% of its native reptiles, frogs and plant species. The state is also home to 5 world heritage listed areas including the Wet Tropics, the Great Barrier Reef and K'gari (Fraser Island) World Heritage Area – the largest sand island on earth.

Such biodiversity creates significant opportunities to explore beneficial uses of those plants and animals through biodiscovery. For example, 50% of the approved drugs in the past 30 years have been made either directly or indirectly from products found in nature.

Biodiscovery laws in Queensland

Queensland was the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce best practice biodiscovery legislation for those undertaking biodiscovery activities. This permitting approach increases certainty and efficiency and promotes conservation and sustainable use of Queensland's native biological resources. This regulatory framework allows biodiscovery entities to demonstrate compliance with the legal requirements in Queensland and helps demonstrate alignment with international laws. Biodiscovery entities include universities, research institutions and commercial research organisations.

Biodiscovery Act 2004

Biodiscovery activities are regulated and defined under the Queensland Biodiscovery Act 2004, and are managed in a manner consistent with Australia's international obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Biodiscovery Act 2004 aims to ensure biodiscovery activities in Queensland are sustainable, while returning a fair and equitable benefit to the community. This is achieved through the following requirements:

  • For material collected from State land or Queensland waters – obtain a collection authority and negotiate a benefit sharing agreement with the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation.
  • For biodiscovery using First Nations peoples' traditional knowledge – meet the traditional knowledge obligation by ensuring traditional knowledge is only used in biodiscovery under an agreement with the custodians of the knowledge. This obligation applies to biodiscovery commenced since September 2020, and in relation to native biological material collection from anywhere in Queensland.

Queensland Biotechnology Code of Ethics

Biodiscovery activities must comply with the Queensland Biotechnology Code of Ethics—an ethical framework to guide the development of biotechnology in Queensland.

Exemption for FAO Treaty plants

Biodiscovery using a plant listed in Annex 1 of The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the FAO Treaty) may be exempt from the Biodiscovery Act 2004. The exemption applies to the extent that the plant is taken or used for a food or agriculture purpose, and in a way that is consistent with the FAO Treaty.

If you are satisfied an exemption from the Biodiscovery Act 2004 applies, you can submit a statement of confirmation (DOCX, 821KB) to the department by emailing

Other biodiscovery laws

Find out about legislative requirements for accessing biological resources of the Commonwealth and other states and territories.

Also consider...

  • Read a range of biodiscovery resources, including the compliance code for taking native biological material, collection authority application forms, information sheets and guidelines.