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Swiss reject GM moratorium


The Swiss Parliament has rejected a moratorium on GM crops. The Lower House voted to reject the moratorium by 77:70, reflecting an about-turn by the Lower House to support the Upper House, which at the beginning of June voted overwhelmingly against any moratorium by a majority of 29 to six votes.

In May this year, the Lower House had originally voted in favour of a moratorium (83:78). This led to the need to find a resolution between the two Houses. Swiss parliamentary procedure dictates that both Houses must reach consensus prior to decisions becoming law.

"We applaud this decision, which is a positive political move in Europe," said Simon Barber, director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio , the European biotech industry body. "At long last, we are beginning to see encouraging signals to support this important technology," he added.

His words would no doubt be echoed by US President George W. Bush who, this week, renewed his criticism of European nations on Monday for refusing to accept genetically modified foods, and contended the ban was contributing to famine in Africa.

Speaking at a biotechnology conference in Washington this week, President Bush commented:"For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology. We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger."

European countries, and crucially, European consumers, are concerned about the safety of genetically modified foods. Since 1998 Europe has upheld a moratorium on new GM crops - a position roundly criticised by the United States.