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6-Regulation: Swiss GM moratorium initiative gains momentum

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TITLE:  Swiss GM moratorium initiative gains momentum
SOURCE: checkbiotech/Syngenta, Siwtzerland, by Daniel Rechsteiner
DATE:   Jan 15, 2003

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Swiss GM moratorium initiative gains momentum

Swiss Farmer's Union (SBV) supports a people's initiative for a GM 

After heavy debate, the Swiss Chamber of Agriculture voted 46 to 36 with 
the intent of maintaining Switzerland's agriculture as GM-free. As a result 
of the vote, the Swiss Chamber of Agriculture, responsible for giving 
farmers a voice in Swiss politics, effectively backed a new initiative for 
a five year moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMO).

In October of last year, following the Swiss government's decision not to 
implement a GM moratorium, the SBV, together with Pro Natura and 
Greenpeace, publicized their agreement to start a people's intiative for a 
GM moratorium.

According to the citizen's initiative for GM-free food, genetically 
modified plants, plant tissues and seeds are not allowed to be imported, or 
put in circulation during a five year moratorium period. The groups 
involved in the GM-free intiative will start collecting votes probably in 
middle of February.

A historical decision

Herbert Krach, the manager of the Swiss Small Farmer's Association said the 
voting outcome was "a historical decision. He also noted that the union 
between environmental and animal protection groups, and consumer 
organisations shows that the agricultural community is able to establish 
necessary alliances in order to further its interests.

Simonetta Sommaruga, the President of the Swiss Consumer Protection Agency, 
interpreted the Chamber's decision as a clear signal of a re-alignment 
towards the consumers' choice. She noted that according to the most recent 
surveys, 70% of Swiss consumers desire GM-free food.

Roland Furrer, speaker of the SBV, said that with yesterday's vote, "The 
SBV confirmed its present commitment for a quality-oriented indigenous 

He further stated that there's no place for an application of genetically 
modified organisms (GMO) in Switzerland. "A negative decision would have 
been hard to justify to (the Swiss public)."

The decision of the agricultural chamber is a defeat for pro-business 
farmer representatives such as Josef Leu, a member of the board of 
directors for the gene research foundation Gen Suisse, and the Swiss food 
distributor Migros. He viewed the initiative and vote as a needless 
constraint for farmers and the Swiss economy.

The vote to sustain the initiative now requires pro-business 
representatives of the farmers to take an active part in gathering 
signatures with the Swiss Green Party, Pro Natura and Bio Suisse, all of 
whom favour a stronger presence of organic and traditional farming methods 
as opposed to the introduction of GMOs.

Commenting on the situation, Karl Tschuppert, member of the Swiss National 
Council said. "This is not a good starting point for future decisions in 
the National Council."

However for Josef Kunz, also a member of the Swiss National Council, 
visions, "GMO-free agriculture as the only chance to maintain our 
established position within Europe.

Daniel Rechsteiner is a writer for Checkbiotech.
He is currently study Biology at the University of Basel, Switzerland.