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6-Regulation: Swiss biotech lobby group and government urge voters to reject GE crop moratorium



                                  PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Government recommends a "no" and a "yes"
SOURCE: swissinfo
        http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?
siteSect=105&sid=6133909&cKey=1128341985000
DATE:   3 Oct 2005
------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


Government recommends a "no" and a "yes"

The government is advising voters to reject a people's initiative calling
for a five-year moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in
Switzerland.

But it is calling on the electorate to vote in favour of allowing shops
at major railway stations and airports to open on Sundays. The two issues
go to a nationwide vote on November 27.

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss told a news conference on Monday in Bern
that a moratorium on GMOs in agriculture would be bad news for farmers
and consumers.

Deiss said that the current law on the issue, which came into force last
year, provided enough protection for people and the environment.

The present legislation is aimed at strictly controlling GMOs. It forbids
the keeping of genetically modified animals in agriculture for an
indefinite period, whereas the initiative foresaw five years.


Strict procedure

Deiss said that under the law the procedure for authorising GM crops
lasts at least five years - as long as the moratorium. He added that no
demand for such an authorisation had yet been made.

He noted that a moratorium would give the wrong signal to the scientific
community and would be harmful to economic sectors linked to research.

Deiss said that the government and parliament were against the banning of
developing technologies.

"If we want to maintain our living standards, we must be with the new
value-creating technologies, otherwise we will be in danger of sliding,"
he commented.


Labour law

Voters are being urged to vote "yes" to a revision of the labour law to
allow Sunday trading at shops at the 25 largest railway stations and a
number of airports operating scheduled flights.

A revision would anchor what already happens in the larger stations and
airports into the law.

"Shopping in such centres meets a need among the public," said Deiss.

If the revision were to be turned down, the State Secretariat for
Economic Affairs would have to withdraw permission from the 120-150 shops
that already open on Sundays. This would affect about 2,000 jobs.

They represent less than 0.5 per cent of the 360,000 people already
working on Sundays in other sectors, including hospitals, transport and
hotels.

Trade unions warned on Friday that moves to relax Switzerland's tough
Sunday trading restrictions will lead to a seven-day working week across
the country.


                                  PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE: Gene specialists come out against moratorium
SOURCE: swissinfo
        http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?
siteSect=105&sid=6137208&cKey=1128440129000
DATE:   4 Oct 2005
------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


Gene specialists come out against moratorium

A group of Swiss scientists has warned that if voters accept a moratorium
on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture,
research could suffer.

The Gen Suisse Foundation said that delaying the use of GM plants would
also undermine teaching in Switzerland's universities.

Swiss voters are being asked on November 27 whether to accept a five-year
moratorium on GMOs.

"Switzerland cannot afford to stick its head in the sand," said Ernst
Hafen, who will take over as the president of Zurich's Federal Institute
of Technology in December.

"Ten of Europe's best 50 biotechnology researchers are Swiss," he added.
"We should not hinder their projects or they will start heading abroad."

Hafen also believes that careers could be nipped in the bud. "Uncertainty
or a poisonous working environment will make some people hesitate to
pursue a career in this field."

The genetics specialist pointed out that even safe tests of GM plants in
a controlled environment are difficult to carry out because of protests
from associations opposed to the use of modified organisms.

For Hafen, current legislation restricting the use of GM plants is
sufficient and there is no need for a further moratorium.


Fundamentalists

Klaus Ammann, head of Bern University's botanical garden, warned that
those backing the moratorium weren't all lily-white either. "Some of them
are fundamentalists who want to kill off genetic engineering and spread
irrational fears," he said.

Ammann added that the idea of biological farming in developing countries
was a pipe dream.

"These nations already use modern technology for farming when they can
afford it. But because they often can't, it's up to rich countries like
Switzerland to make sure their research and development is as competitive
as it can be," he said.

Ammann said that examples of research that could benefit developing
nations abounded, such as strengthening plant resistance to drought and
salt or increasing the vitamins contained by plants.


Swiss farmers

But the ecologist also pointed out that Swiss farmers stood to gain from
the use of GM plants.

"We have trouble eliminating mildew from potatoes, even with pesticides,"
he said. "Modern genetic technology would give us a chance of dealing
with it."

On Monday, Economics Minister Joseph Deiss said that a moratorium on GMOs
in agriculture would be bad news for farmers and consumers.

He added that the current law on the issue, which came into force last
year, provided enough protection for people and the environment.

Deiss said that under the law the procedure for authorising GM crops
lasts at least five years - as long as the moratorium. He also noted that
a moratorium would give the wrong signal to the scientific community and
would be harmful to economic sectors linked to research.




--


GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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Germany

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