Brussels, 30 Nov 2005
Swiss voters have supported a ban on the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops.
The majority was small at 55.6 per cent, but enough to ensure that GM crops will not be grown in Switzerland for at least five years. The 'people's initiative' was brought by a coalition of groups, including environmental, consumer and agricultural associations.
It is quite unusual in Swiss politics for a people's initiative to be passed in a national referendum. The majority of the popular vote and the backing of more than half of the cantons are required for this to happen. Anti-GM campaigners had claimed during the run-up to the vote that GM produce is neither in the interest of consumers nor Swiss farmers. They had also claimed that a moratorium would be an opportunity for farmers to improve their organic farming methods and marketing.
The result is unpopular with the bioindustry, as well as with the Swiss federal government and parliament, which had both recommended voting against the ban. All had claimed that the current law includes sufficient safety guarantees and that a ban could be detrimental to biotechnology research within Switzerland.
EuropaBio, the European association for bioindustries, was disappointed by the outcome, and issued the following statement: 'EuropaBio [...] regrets the negative result for Switzerland, as a location for research and innovation. Although the ban only concerns the commercial cultivation of GM crops, from experience with the de facto moratorium in the European Union, the impact will be acutely felt in terms of investment in research and innovation. Field trials in the EU declined significantly during this period.'
EuropaBio also notes a recent study which found that farmers using GM technology increased their income by USD billion (23 billion euro) between 1996 and 2004.