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Cabinet tackles GM food in first session of 2000

The Swiss cabinet has held its first session of the new year, and the contentious issue of genetically modified foods was at the top of the agenda.

This content was published on January 12, 2000 - 22:05

The Swiss cabinet has held its first session of the new year, and the contentious issue of genetically modified foods was at the top of the agenda.

The seven minister said they were tending towards maintaining the status quo, in which producers have to obtain official approval to sow GM crops, rather than introducing a ban.

That would represent an interim victory for the Swiss pharmaceuticals industry.

The government, which will present its official position to parliament next Wednesday, is faced with three options - a complete ban, a moratorium and a continuation of the current licencing system.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, the environment minister, Moritz Leuenberger said a moratorium would be a bad solution, as it would give the impression that all risks would have been eliminated within five or ten years.

Leuenberger said that in continuing its current policy, the Swiss government would be able to coordinate with the European Union, which is also currently looking for solutions to this issue.

The Federal Office for the Environment said that today, producers have to fulfill one crucial criterion in order to receive permission to grow GM crops - ensuring the safety of the environment and humans. In future, they'll have to abide by two more: maintaining biological diversity and the respecting the dignity of the creature.

The office revealed that Leuenberger had proposed to his cabinet colleagues a continuation of the authorisation regime for scientific purposes, and a ban for commercial sowing.

Suggestions last year that the government might consider a ban or a moratorium on genetically modified organisms angered the powerful Swiss pharmaceuticals industry.

The Swiss multinational, Novartis, is a world leader in the development of GM crops.

From staff and wire reports.

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