Swiss Ban FrankenfoodsPeople turned up at polling booths across Switzerland in a referendum to determine whether genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals can be grown in the alpine nation during the next five years. Their verdict in each and every one of the three main languages was the same, nein, non, no, to GE.
International — Last Sunday, people turned up at polling booths across Switzerland in a referendum to determine whether genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals can be grown in the alpine nation during the next five years. Their verdict in each and every one of the three main languages was the same, nein, non, no, to GE.
All 26 cantons (administrative regions) that make up Switzerland voted unanimously against GE crops and animals being grown in the country. The national vote was 55.7 percent in favour of the ban but reached a high of 75.8 percent in the farming canton of Jura. The farmers of Switzerland are concerned not only with the uncertain health effects of GE crops but also that GE contamination would ruin their fast-growing organic farming sector.
The ban doesn’t rid Switzerland of GE completely as GE field trials will still be allowed under the new moratorium and products deriving from animals fed on GE crops can still be imported into the country. Pending applications for GE food and animal feed could also still be approved.
“Greenpeace hopes Switzerland’s rejection of GE crops inspires others around the world to stand up and say ‘no’ to genetic engineering. We also encourage the Swiss public to continue to voice its opposition to this highly risky technology. Every route of contamination must be closed before people can rest assured their plants and the food on their plates is not contaminated,” said Geert Ritsema, Greenpeace International GE campaigner.
Switzerland is unique in the world in that it allows its citizens a direct say in how they are governed via regular referenda. With the latest vote going against GE, the biotech companies like Monsanto and Switzerland’s own Syngenta must be hoping that the democratic urge doesn’t escape the land-locked country and spread to other lands.
The people of Switzerland are fortunate that their government takes into account their views before deciding important issues like the release of GE crops into the environment. Across many parts of the world, public opinion is similarly in opposition. But some governments, seduced by promises of riches, have been quick to bypass or suppress public opposition and grant permission for biotech companies to contaminate the environment with genetically engineered crops.
With the US, Canada and Argentina trying to force GE food onto European consumers via the WTO, the Swiss vote shows that the pro-GE forces are losing their grip. The rights of people to determine what food is permissible from the farm gate to their dining table must be respected. With the Swiss voting against GE crops, the biotech industry must now realise what the opinion polls across the world has been showing for a long time, people don’t want GE food. GreenPeace
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