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6-Regulation: Swiss parliament rejects GM crop moratorium

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TITLE:  Parliament rejects GM crop moratorium
SOURCE: swissinfo
DATE:   June 12, 2003

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Parliament rejects GM crop moratorium

The Swiss parliament has thrown out a proposal to impose a five-year
moratorium on the use of genetically modified (GM) crops. The issue is
now expected to be put to a nationwide vote. The House of Representatives
followed the lead of the Senate which said "no" to a moratorium last
week, as part of a revision of the country's law on agriculture. This was
the second time the House had voted on the issue, having previously come
out in favour of a moratorium. However, fears that a freeze would stifle
Swiss research and cost jobs saw parliamentarians reject the proposal by
77 votes to 70 at the second reading. Economics minister Joseph Deiss had
earlier told the House that Switzerland could lose its pre-eminent
position in agricultural research. The Left and a handful of right-wing
parliamentarians led by the president of the Swiss Farmers' Union,
Hansjörg Walter, failed to convince their colleagues that a temporary ban
would have no impact.

Upcoming vote

Parliamentarians also pledged to hold a proper debate on GM crops ahead
of a nationwide vote called in February by the Green Party, environmental
groups, farmers and consumer associations. So far, 115,000 citizens have
backed the initiative demanding for a five-year moratorium - well above
the 100,000 required to force a poll. Thursday's vote follows a previous
decision by parliament during a revision of Switzerland's non-human gene
technology law to allow GM crops to be planted. That decision heralded
the end of Switzerland's status as a country free of genetically modified
organisms (GMOs). However, it is still not clear whether farmers will
make use of the new technology. Environmentalists have voiced concerns in
the past that parliament does not reflect the opinions of the Swiss.
Regular polls have shown consumers are opposed to GMOs on their plate.

GM free

Switzerland is so far free of GM crops. Switzerland's two biggest
retailers, Migros and Coop have refused to stock or sell GMO products.
Planned field trials of GM plants by Zurich's Federal Institute of
Technology have also been at the heart of an intense legal battle for
over a year, because of fears that crops could be cross-pollinated by
GMOs. Specialists warn this unavoidable, whether tests are carried out in
Switzerland or not. In March the country's Federal Court stopped an
outdoor trial of GM wheat shortly before it was due to go ahead. Judges
said the environment ministry had not taken into account the opinions and
concerns of those opposed to the tests, despite setting strict conditions.


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