GMO news related to Switzerland


Bound to fail: The flawed scientific foundations of agricultural genetic engineering

Half a century on from the first promises of wondercrops, GM has delivered little of value – and the same will be true of the new gene-edited GMOs, says researcher Dr Angelika Hilbeck

The GMO food venture is bound to fail because it is based on flawed scientific foundations. This was the message of a public talk given by Dr Angelika Hilbeck, researcher at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and a board member and co-founder of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), on the evening before the 9th GMO Free Europe conference in Berlin this September.

Dr Hilbeck's talk introduced a panel discussion with four other scientists: Prof Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher of Econexus; Dr Sarah Agapito-Tenfen of Genøk Centre for Biosafety, Norway; and Prof Ignacio Chapela of the University of California Berkeley. The entire discussion can be viewed here.

Below is our summary of Dr Hilbeck's talk, given from her perspective as an ecologist. This article will be followed by a second commentary on the same theme by the London-based molecular geneticist Dr Michael Antoniou, this time from the standpoint of molecular biology.


Gene drive symposium

Interdisciplinary symposium on gene drives with a focus on their scientific, ethical, socio-economic and regulatory aspects

FRIDAY 24 MAY 2019

9:00―17:00 Eventforum Bern Fabrikstrasse 12

3012 Bern, Switzerland

The idea of circumventing the rules of inheritance in order to quickly spread and maintain desired traits through an entire population or species, has long existed. With new genetic engineering techniques for genome editing, such as CRISPR-Cas9, it may soon be possible to turn this idea into reality. It has been claimed that gene drive technology may be used to combat infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue or zika, as well as to reduce the threat posed by agricultural pests and ecologically harmful invasive species. However, a crucial difference with conventional gene technology is that gene drives intentionally target wild populations in order to permanently alter them.

Gene drives are a technology that raises fundamental ecological, social, ethical, and legal questions:

* Which path do we want to take as a society?

* Is it a good idea to seek to irreversibly alter ecosystems in the age of mass extinctions?

* Are there dispensable species?

* Are the promised goals achievable?

* Who gets to decide?

* What environmental implications could we face if we were to eliminate populations or species using gene drives?

* What are the consequences of making such attempts if they are unsuccessful?

* Who is responsible when things go wrong with a technology that potentially crosses borders?

* Are the appropriate regulations in place?

A working group of international scientists and philosophers has extensively considered these questions. The outcome of this process will be presented for discussion at the Gene Drive Symposium.


Lim Li Ching, Third World Network

Christopher Preston, University of Montana

Ricarda Steinbrecher, Federation of German Scientists (VDW)

Helen Wallace, GeneWatch UK


Kevin Esvelt, MIT Media Lab

Ignacio Chapela, University of California, Berkeley


Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Honorary president, Club of Rome

More information at:

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility


GM plants in bird feed found in non-GMO Switzerland

Authorities have identified the presence of genetically modified oilseed rape in bird feed sold in Switzerland. This could provide a pathway for the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment.

Authorities have contacted bird feed importers to ensure GM seeds do not find their way into Switzerland, where a moratorium against all such crops is in place until 2021.

An assessment of bird feed carried out by national agricultural research centre Agroscope has revealed that 24 of 30 samples tested contain genetically modified oilseed rape. Eleven of these showed evidence of multiple contamination, some with up to three varieties of transgenic oilseed rape that are authorised as animal feed in the European Union: GT73, RF3, MS8. The majority showed a contamination rate of less than 0.5%.


Parliament backs extension of GMO moratorium

The Swiss parliament has approved a plan to extend the current moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture from 2017 to 2021. However, it wants nothing to do with cabinet proposals to create GMO zones in certain parts of the country after 2021.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved changes to the law on genetic engineering that would set in motion the extension of the GMO ban until 2021. A motion to extend it until 2025 was rejected. The House of Representatives had previously agreed the extension to 2021.

The current moratorium ends this year and the cabinet had previously said more time and debate was required on the use of GMOs in Swiss agriculture.

In 2005, the Swiss people voted for a five-year ban on GMOs, which was then extended by parliament in 2010 until 2013 and once again in 2012 until 2017.


New Plant Breeding Techniques – Ethical Considerations

March 2016

Swiss Confederation

Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology ECNH

In recent years technologies have been developed or employed in plant breeding which have replaced genetic and conventional techniques, and combinations of the two; these are known collectively as (NPBTs). As with methods in genetic engineering, NPBTs can also be used to modify the genome of a plant. This means new characteristics can be created; for example, a plant’s components can be altered to generate resistance to disease, infestation by insects or weed killer. NPBTs have become increasingly important in crop research and development. Like other methods in breeding technology, NPBTs do not cover the whole of the breeding process. They are used in the laboratory at the beginning of

the process. A large part of the work in plant breeding takes place outdoors in the field, where the plant reacts to its environment, and new characteristics must be tested for biological stability in a “real-life” situation.


Switzerland update

Information about Switzerland is updated.


Switzerland will extend moratorium on GM crop cultivation

Moratorium expected to remain in place until 2021

The Swiss Federal Council, meeting in Bern on 18 December 2015, has declared that it is in favour of continuing the country’s moratorium on the cultivation of GM plants until 2021.

The Federal Council said it ”has decided to maintain the ban on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The current moratorium should be extended until 2021 under the Gene Technology Act (LGG)."

Currently, GMO cultivation is only permitted in Switzerland for research. The Swiss moratorium has been extended twice and expires in December 2017. Several cantons already have already indicated their interest in an extension of the moratorium and have adopted decisions to ban GM crops on their territory.

The Federal Council also asks that ”principles guaranteeing the protection of conventional crops as well as the free choice of consumers (coexistence) are specified.”


Patent on tomatoes about to be granted: New report shows the need for urgent political action

no patents on seeds

Press release

7 December 2015 Munich.

The European Patent Office (EPO) is granting more and more patents on conventional breeding. Now a final decision is about to be taken on a patent on tomatoes with reduced water content (EP1211926). Tomorrow, the EPO will have its final hearing on this patent, after which it will grant the patent with just some small changes to the wording. Together with a patent on broccoli (EP10698190), the patent on tomatoes has attracted major international attention and sparked intense debate over several years. At the end of March 2015, the EPO used these two cases to make a precedent decision in order to declare plants and animals derived from conventional breeding as patentable. There is currently growing opposition to this decision: Patent authorities and representatives of the governments of Austria, France, Germany and The Netherlands are amongst those who have publicly criticised the EPO decision.

“It is now up to politicians to show they can succeed in the fight against the well-organised interests of the patent business”, says Christoph Then, one of the speakers for the international coalition of “No Patents on Seeds!”. “The EPO, the patent attorneys and big corporations are all benefitting from these patents, but the negative consequences concern society as a whole. It is of the greatest importance that the existing prohibitions are properly implemented.”


Syngenta files complaint against accusers in corn case including Cargill, ADM

Syngenta is suing Cargill, ADM and other agribusiness groups in the US over their claims alleging serious damages incurred from the sale of the Swiss company’s Viptera seed into the US prior to Chinese trait authorization.


Top Supermarkets in Switzerland Remove Glyophosate From Shelves

Major Blow to Monsanto’s Glyphosate as Swiss Retailers Begin Removing Herbicides From Store Shelves

Why are the Swiss willing to protect their people over the risk of profits and from cancer but not US retailers?

Coop supermarkets and Coop Building & Hobby hardware stores in Switzerland are effective immediately removing all glyphosate-containing herbicides including Round Up from it’s shelves. Following in their footsteps Migros another major retailer has also stated they will be doing the same. No word yet if retailers Landi, Hornback and Jumbo would also remove all glyphosate from their stores. The push for a permanent ban in the Swiss nation is being made by via a petition.

The petition (link below) has been launched demanding that glyphosate be banned permanently in Switzerland. The petition demands “Glyphosate ban – now!

The petition can be signed here:

or here:

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