WWF joins push for gene-tech pause

WWF, Switzerland has joined calls for a moratorium on GM crops Keystone

The World Wide Fund for Nature in Switzerland has joined other conservation groups calling for an immediate halt to the production of genetically-modified crops.

This content was published on February 12, 2002 - 20:06

Debate within Switzerland over modified food is set to escalate in coming months, as the Swiss parliament prepares to tackle new legislation this summer controlling the sale and agriculture of GM food.

The WWF said on Tuesday that a moratorium was the only way to protect consumers and the environment.

Support for research

Bernadette Oehen, a WWF spokeswoman, said she was not opposed to scientific research into GM, but warned against crop trials in Swiss fields and the sale of products in supermarkets.

"The best way to control genetic engineering is not to stop it, but to deal with it," Oehen told swissinfo.

"I think a moratorium and the possibility of doing some research is the best way to deal with the technology."

"There is an open discussion about the health risk and if we don't have more knowledge about that, it's a big [risk] to put all this food on the market," she said.

Heavy penalties

Proposed legislation includes heavy penalties for unwanted gene contamination, although environmentalists say the laws would be ineffective.

Peter Ettler, a Zurich-based lawyer for the WWF said the proposed laws would not be strong enough to protect farmers whose livelihoods had been damaged by GM crops.

Ettler said there currently exists no way to determine where a potential crop contamination has come from, making damage cases almost impossible to win.

As it stands, most Swiss consumers appear opposed to GM food, preferring biologically pure products.

Switzerland also faces the prospect of having its farmlands contaminated by GM pollen from neighbouring countries if the Euro-zone opens its doors to widespread trials.

by Jacob Greber

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