Switzerland: Government wants to loosen rules for genome editing
by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)
The Federal Council - the Swiss government - wants to facilitate the approval of products from genome editing. The committee decided that the current genetic engineering legislation should be "risk-based and adapted to new developments". By the end of the year, the Federal Council intends to present a draft law.
Classification into risk categories
The draft law should also safeguard the precautionary principle, according to the Federal Council decision. Therefore, "hazards and impairments caused by organisms produced by new genetic engineering processes must be identified at an early stage - even before application - and measures taken to reduce the risk". On this basis, the products are then to be classified into different risk categories to which different requirements would apply. The details should be clarified by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment. After the summer of 2019, the Federal Council will then adopt "Key points for adapting the legal basis" and submit a first draft law for public discussion by the end of the year.
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The Neue Züricher Zeitung (NZZ) quoted Paul Scherer, managing director of the Swiss alliance "Gentechfrei", as saying that one is open to differentiating between the risks. However, gene-edited must be labelled. Whether 'GMO' or 'gene-edited product' would then appear on the packaging would play a subordinate role.
No solo actions in trading with the EU
The cultivation of GM-plants is prohibited in Switzerland until the end of 2021. The Swiss parliament must decide in good time beforehand whether it will extend this moratorium. It will then be up for debate whether the moratorium should also apply to gene-edited plants or whether their cultivation will be permitted. However, the NZZ quotes Sarah Stalder, managing director of the Foundation for Consumer Protection, as saying that in practice it would not be possible for Switzerland to go it alone because of the exchange of goods with the EU. For practical reasons, Swiss regulation must be based on that of the EU, a Swiss professor of law said in the NZZ.