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Agriculture Parliament backs extension of GMO moratorium

GM wheat from Agroscope's research centre in Reckenholz-Taenikon is weighed at the Institute of Plant Biology at the University of Zurich

(Keystone)

The Swiss parliament has approved a plan to extend the current moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture from 2017 to 2021. However, it wants nothing to do with cabinet proposals to create GMO zones in certain parts of the country after 2021.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved changes to the law on genetic engineering that would set in motion the extension of the GMO ban until 2021. A motion to extend it until 2025 was rejected. The House of Representatives had previously agreed the extension to 2021.

The current moratorium ends this year and the cabinet had previously said more time and debate was required on the use of GMOs in Swiss agriculture.

In 2005, the Swiss people voted for a five-year ban on GMOs, which was then extended by parliament in 2010 until 2013 and once again in 2012 until 2017.

Currently the government only allows genetically modified crop field trials on a case-by-case basis under strict conditions. The plants have to be located in a covered area and monitored by the police to prevent vandalism by anti-GMO activists. They have to be planted at least 300 metres from other species to prevent cross-pollination. Machinery and test materials have to be cleaned and correctly incinerated.

GMO zones

In June 2016, the cabinet approved extending the moratorium until 2021 but included an amendment that envisaged the introduction of GMO zones in certain parts of the country after 2021.

The goal, it said, was to separate GMO crops from conventional agricultural throughout the production chain and secure greater acceptance for the coexistence of GMO and traditional agriculture in the country.

On Wednesday, the Senate rejected this idea, with some members warning of the irrevocability of coexistence.

“You can lose your virginity only once,” said Hannes Germann from the conservative right Swiss People’s Party. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts

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