GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Swiss protests...

Swiss petition demands ban on gene-modified food

BERNE, Dec 5 (Reuter) - Environmental, consumer and farming activists on
Thursday handed the Swiss government a petition with 147,000 signatures
demanding a total ban on imports of genetically-modified foodstuffs.
Eight groups gave the petition to the Interior Ministry, whose Federal
Health Agency division is expected to rule soon on whether
genetically-altered soybeans and maize and their derivatives can be used
for food in Switzerland. The organisers, including international
environmental group Greenpeace and Swiss groups, called on the health
agency to bar such foods for humans or animals. The health agency is
reviewing five applications, including one from Monsanto Co (MTC.N) to
market foods and supplements from genetically-modified soybeans and
another from Ciba-Geigy AG (CIGZn.S) for altered maize and maize
products. "These applications have been made even though all previous
surveys have shown that a large majority of consumers in Switzerland and
the European Union are against genetically altered foodstuffs," the
protesters said in a statement. They said the food industry was ignoring
consumer fears and trying to force the new technology onto the market.
"We demand that federal authorities finally put a stop to this genetic
nonsense in the food and animal fodder industries," they added. The
petition had been gathered in four months in Switzerland, whose
population is about seven million. Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" soybeans,
which are genetically modified to resist its Roundup herbicide, have
been approved by U.S. and European Union (EU) health and safety
officials. But European consumer and environmental groups have voiced
concern over the use of genetically-altered material and some food
manufacturers in Germany say they will not use it. Ciba is seeking
marketing permission for its strain of maize altered to withstand the
corn borer pest and approved in the U.S., although an EU decision is
still pending. Switzerland's two biggest food store chains, Migros and
Coop, say their own surveys found 80 to 90 percent of customers did not
want genetically-modified products in their food.

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