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Switzerland: Three more years of GM ban

(08 February 2010) The moratorium for genetically modified animals and plants that has been in force in Switzerland since 2005 is to be extended for a further three years. First of all, the results are expected of a national research programme on the uses and risks of genetically modified plants.

In a referendum in 2005, the majority of the Swiss population voted to initially prohibit the use of genetically modified animals and plants for a period of five years.

During this moratorium the uses and risks of genetically modified plants were to be investigated in depth. A national research program (NFP59) was commissioned in which various projects such as consumer acceptance or assuring freedom of choice were promoted. Several study groups were concerned with genetically modified wheat characterised by resistance to mildew, a widespread fungal disease. For this concrete example, not only were questions of biological safety examined - such as the possibility of outcrossing or effects on biodiversity and soil fertility - but also the long-term effectiveness of the resistance endowed through the gene technology procedure.

The field trials with two different mildew-resistant GM-wheat varieties at two locations were approved under strict constraints and after protracted debates. Such field trials for research purposes are possible despite the moratorium under certain conditions.

Since the results of these research programmes are not expected until the middle of 2012, the majority of the Scientific Commission of the Swiss National Assembly, as had the Council of States previously, voted for an extension of the moratorium, due to expire in November 2010, by three years. The majority of the Commission were of the opinion that an extension would result in "no serious scientific disadvantage". The research indeed remains restricted, but "sowing under strict conditions" is still permitted

The Bundesrat now has to devise the regulations to control the use of GM plants and animals before the expiry date of the moratorium.


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