Organic Consumers Association

Swiss to vote on Moratorium on GMO foods

May 22, 2003
by Terry Allan

The Initiative Committee of the group StopOGM (Stop Genetically Modified
Organisms) announced that they have collected more than the 100,000 signatures necessary to put a 5-year moratorium on GMOs in Switzerland to popular vote. Having achieved the first step toward getting the initiative to popular vote, a process that took the group just 4 months, StopOGM will have about two years to campaign for popular approval of the initiative.

The federal initiative "for Food Products without Genetic Manipulations" would amend the Swiss constitution as follows:

Article 197, chapter 2 (new)

2. Swiss agriculture will not use genetically modified organisms for five years from the adoption of this constitutional amendment. Such use is not permitted in imports or in circulation: a. genetically modified plants, parts of plants, and seeds that prevent reproduction and are destined for use in the environment, in agriculture, horticulture, and forestry; b. genetically modified animals intended for the production of food and other agricultural products.

Syngenta, a major developer of GMOs headquartered in Switzerland, with additional support from others in the biotechnology industry, is expected to mount a well-financed effort to defeat the initiative. The US is putting tremendous political pressure on the European Union to accept GM foods, and the biotech industry considers Europe to be the stumbling block to worldwide expansion. It will be a tough battle, but committee members are optimistic. "The majority of the Swiss people are opposed to genetically modified foods," said Robert Zollinger, committee member and organic seed producer, "We will not lose this vote."

The initiative is significant in Europe, as well as the world. The Swiss democratic system is the only one in the world that allows citizen-led initiatives to be brought at the federal level. The vote will directly reflect the wishes of the citizens, and indeed, may be the only opportunity ordinary citizens anywhere will have to officially voice their opinions on this contentious issue.

For more information contact:
Secretary, Initiative Populaire Federale
"Pour des aliments produits sans manipulations genetiques"
Case Postale 8319
3001 Berne

Terry Allan is an organic farmer and freelance writer currently living in India. She attended the StopOGM annual meeting this May in Lausanne, Switzerland

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