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Parliament opposes GM crop moratorium

Activists at the submission of the GM-free initiative in September 2003

(Keystone)

Parliament has come out against a people’s initiative calling for a five-year moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops in Switzerland.

The House of Representatives narrowly rejected the move, following the line taken by the Senate earlier this year. The initiative will now go to popular vote.

Engineered by a coalition of environmental groups, consumers and farmers, the initiative calls for a five-year moratorium on the import or trading of genetically modified plants or grain.

But on Tuesday the house voted by 91 votes to 88 against the initiative. Opponents, mainly from the centre-right parties, described the moratorium as unnecessary and detrimental to Switzerland’s interests.

They said that the law on genetics that came into effect in January last year already adequately protected humans, animals and the environment against abuses.

Others were concerned that the initiative could damage trade relations with other countries and harm Switzerland’s standing as a place of scientific development, even if research was not directly targeted by the moratorium.

"The growth possibilities of future technologies would be affected," said Brigitta Gadient.

Christine Egerszegi warned that scientists could be tempted to work abroad if the future of GM crops remained uncertain in Switzerland.

Denial

However, the initiative’s supporters, mainly made up of centre-left Social Democrats and the Green party, denied the moratorium would have an impact on research.

Among their main concerns were that GM crops could contaminate non-GM crops in neighbouring fields through pollen dispersal.

Andrea Hämmerle, also an organic farmer, said that in a country as small as Switzerland cross-pollination would be hard to avoid.

Supporters added that there was still widespread consumer resistance to GM products.

These arguments were backed up by some members of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, who were representing farmers’ interests.

However, despite their stance on the initiative, the house also dismissed an indirect counter-proposal, aimed at showing how GM and non-GM crops could co-exist.

Reaction

Reacting to the result of the vote, the coalition in support of the initiative said they regretted the house’s decision.

But they said they remained optimistic that their proposal would be approved by the population.

Both the government and Senate have already rejected the initiative. In March the Senate voted decisively against it by 32 votes to seven.

The initiative will now be put to popular vote, which should take place no later than mid-January 2007.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The House of Representatives has rejected – by 91 votes to 88 with two abstentions – a five-year moratorium on the import or trading of genetically modified plants or grain.
The Senate had already rejected the initiative by 32 votes to 7.
The initiative, which was submitted in September 2003, must now be put to the people no later than mid-January 2007.

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