Swiss Bureaucrats Nix GE Moratorium

Mittwoch, 20. Juni 2001
Swiss Bureaucrats Nix GE Moratorium

11 to 17 June 2001
States Council Opposes GMO Moratorium
New Aliens Law Back from Consultation
No Agreement in Language Dispute
A Call to Improve the Status of Natural Medicines

States Council Opposes GMO Moratorium

The most closely watched item on the agenda of Parliament's summer session
was the States Council's debate on the Genetics Law on Wednesday and
Thursday. A week before, right at the start of the session, representatives
of environmental groups had delivered 300,000 protest cards calling for a
so-called genetic moratorium. Emphasis of the protest was on the Federal
Council's planned approval for the use of genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) - which, however, are to be placed under strict control procedures.
Those members of the States Council who felt themselves at all competent to
address the issue admitted openly that a part-time parliament has only
limited capacity to deal with material as complex as genetics legislation.
Nevertheless, the upper house decided to follow the recommendations of both
the Federal Council and its own advisory committee, and to reject a
moratorium on GMOs.

Advocates of a moratorium wanted to ban the commercial use of GMOs in
agriculture, forestry and gardening until the end of the year 2008, at the
same time empowering Parliament to shorten that moratorium on approvals or
to prolong it for a maximum of five years. They stressed that the moratorium
period would have to be used for serious risk assessment and ancillary
research. The principal argument against a moratorium was that the present
regulations for approval of GMOs are written so that they actually amount to
a ban on their public use.

Despite its decision against a moratorium, the States Council was unable to
complete its debate on the bill on Thursday, because no agreement could be
reached on the second major point of dispute in the legislative draft, the
section covering more restrictive legal liability. The senators did not
agree with the Federal Council's submitted draft, which in general places
liability with the manufacturer rather than the end user of GMOs. When
Christine Beerli (Liberal Democrat, Bern) wanted to revise the relevant
clauses in the interest of the pharmaceuticals industry, the senators,
unsure of their ground, sent the entire article back to the committee. They
did, however, manage to approve an extension of the statute of limitations
from 10 to 30 years. The States Council will debate the Genetics Law once
again in its autumn session.

Ronald Schenkel
18 June 2001

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