Swiss vote swings against ban on genetic research

June 12, 1998

Swiss academics and researchers breathed a sigh of relief this week after the country's citizens voted by two to one to reject severe restrictions to genetic engineering.

A referendum on whether to ban transgenic animals and field trials on genetically modified plants, and to refuse patents for genetically modified animals and plants, saw two-thirds of voters reject the proposals.

There was a "no" vote from each of the country's cantons, with more than 70 per cent rejecting the proposals in some French-speaking regions.

Scientists had feared a "yes" vote would force Swiss biomedical researchers overseas and seriously blight the country's university and industrial research.

Luc Weber, former rector of the University of Geneva, called the vote "very positive for the university and research world.

"The result in favour was much higher than we thought it might be," he said. "The research world has been very anxious. We thought the French part would reject it, but feared the risk was relatively high that the German part would be influenced by the Greens. It is an excellent result."

Just two-fifths of those eligible to vote participated.

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