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2-Plants: Swiss reject planting of first genetically altered crops

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TITLE:  Swiss reject planting of first genetically altered crops
SOURCE: AP Worldstream
DATE:   April 16, 1999

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Swiss reject planting of first genetically altered crops 

In the country's first ruling on genetically modified crops, Swiss authorities Friday rejected applications to experimentally plant genetically altered corn and potatoes. Concerns over antibiotic-resistant genes in the potatoes and possible pollination of non-modified corn crops lay behind the decision, the federal office for the environment said. The decision doesn't imply that Switzerland rejects in principle the planting of such crops, according to the office's director, Philippe Roch. It was the first such ruling since Swiss voters last year decisively rejected a proposal to impose tough restrictions on genetic engineering. In the June referendum, some 67 percent of those who voted threw out the initiative.

A government research institute wanted to test the potato crop's resistance to mildew. But environmental authorities objected to the modified vegetables on the grounds they contain a gene resistant to antibiotics sometimes used in medicine. A Swiss company applied to plant the corn to test its built- in resistance to a herbicide. Permission was denied because the risk of other plants being fertilized by genetically modified pollen, while it could be limited, couldn't be eliminated. Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature welcomed the ruling, which can be appealed. The use of genetic technology in food production is common in the United States but is subject to stricter regulation in Europe. Switzerland is a leading force in biotechnology, with Basel-based pharmaceutical giants Novartis and Roche ranking among world leaders in the field. 


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