Swiss citizens vote against ban on genetic engineering
from EVU News, Issue 2 /1998 - Deutsch
Pharmaceutical industry cheers "encouraging signal for Switzerland as a centre of research".
BERN. In a referendum which was a world-wide first, the Swiss population clearly rejected a complete ban on genetic engineering. Two thirds of the voters decided against a radical people's movement. Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry described the outcome of the referendum as "an encouraging signal for Switzerland as a centre of research".
The initiators of the referendum - the Green party, animal rights and consumer organisations - stated that they had not counted on a victory due to the tremendous amount of propaganda (35 Million Swiss Francs!) against the referendum. The 70 organisations were striving to strictly limit genetic engineering with their 'Initiative for the protection of life and the environment against genetic engineering'. Breeding, acquiring and passing on of genetically engineered animals was to be banned as well as the release of genetically engineered organisms into nature and the patenting of genetically engineered organisms. This would have given Switzerland the strictest regulations in all of Europe.
The initiative, signed by 112.000 Swiss citizens, was rejected with a surprising majority last Sunday. Only a third of the voters decided in favour of a total ban.
There was no majority for the initiative in any of the 26 Swiss cantons. Thus, the citizens supported the position of the government and the parliament. An acrimonious debate preceded the referendum. The pharmaceutical industry had defended itself against the initiative by means of a successful campaign. Finally, the public was no longer debating genetically engi-neered corn, but the researching of new cures for cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer's disease. The government is now planning to regulate genetic engineering in a law that 'leaves the necessary controlled freedom for Switzerland as a research centre'.
This law is to be modelled on EU regulations.
Die Presse (THOMAS GERBER), Austria, Monday, June 8, 1998
Meanwhile from New Zealand comes a Genetic food warning:
Thu, 18 Jun 1998
The director of a New Zealand-based organisation at the use of genetically modified foods, says there is now scientific evidence to back up human health concerns.
Guy Hatchard from the New Zealand natural Food Commission says research is now showing that genetic fragments can survive in the human gut and move into cells. 'Basically if you want to get gene into food, you attach it to a virus and viruses are skilled at invading cells,' he said. 'And the problem with that is that viruses end up in the cells and they end up in our food. And because they're attached to food they really have the chance of bypassing the immune system and causing you health prob-lems,' Mr. Hatchard said.