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Swiss government plans tighter rules for GM crops

The cabinet plans to introduce tighter regulations for producers of genetically-modified organisms, but has stopped short of imposing a complete ban on their planting. The proposal aims to improve safeguards without stifling further research.

This content was published on January 19, 2000 - 09:37

The cabinet plans to introduce tighter regulations for producers of genetically-modified organisms, but has stopped short of imposing a complete ban on the planting of GM crops. The draft proposal aims to protect bio-diversity and the dignity of living creatures, without stifling further research.

The seven-member Swiss cabinet had indicated that a complete ban on GM crops was unlikely. Instead it chose to extend controls on the planting of such crops.

Crucially, the draft proposal calls for the legal liability associated with GM crops to be extended from 10 to 30 years. This means producers and farmers could be sued for up to three decades after planting the crops, if it could be proved that they had a negative effect on human health, bio-diversity or the environment.

The cabinet also proposed that the criteria for planting GM crops be tightened to further protect consumers and the environment.

The draft bill includes a provision that the dignity of all living things be protected. This means a plant or animal's integral characteristics must be respected when altering its genetic code.

Earlier, the environment minister, Moritz Leuenberger, said a moratorium on GM crops would be a bad solution, as it would give the impression that all risks would have been eliminated by the time it expired in five or ten years.

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

Conservative parties have welcomed the decision, but environmental and consumer groups have reacted with concern to the news that a ten year moratorium is being ruled out. The Working Group on Genetic Engineering said it would now consider launching an initiative for a moratorium.

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

From staff and wire reports

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