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Modified barley Switzerland gives green light to GM crop trial

Barley field

The testing of genetically modified crops has been controversial in Switzerland and is still banned for commercial purposes.

(Keystone / Karl-josef Hildenbrand)

Switzerland has approved more field trials of genetically modified crops under controlled conditions. The University of Zurich has received permission to plant the GM barley, designed to resist fungal diseases, at a controlled site.

The Federal Office for the Environment on Thursday saidexternal link that measures must be observed to protect people, animals and other plants from the GMO trialexternal link. These include precautions to prevent the modified plants from spreading outside of the control zone in canton Zurich.

“The aim of the experiment is to gain insights into how these so-called transgenic barley lines behave in the open field and, in particular, to clarify whether resistance to fungal diseases also works under field conditions,” the statement read.

The barley has been modified with the wheat resistance gene Lr34. Researchers want to find out whether the gene can also protect corn and barley. The crop will be exposed to barley leaf rust and powdery mildew fungi to test resistance.

Researchers will also test whether the genetic modifications have any effect on crop development and yield.

The experiment has been restricted to five cultivation periods spanning spring 2019 to autumn 2023. It will be the latest in a string of trials that have taken place over the last few years. Organisations such as Greenpeace Switzerland have called for end to such testing.

Agricultural production of GM crops in Switzerland is prohibited by a moratorium until the end of 2021.

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