GMO-free agriculture: Federal Council in favour of extending moratorium

Bern, 01.07.2009 - The Federal Council would like to extend the moratorium "for GMO-free agriculture", which is due to run out on 27 November 2010, by three years. In its session of 1 July 2009, it passed the dispatch on an amendment to the Gene Technology Act to the Parliament. This should win time which can be used to develop scientific principles.

The moratorium on "GMO-free agriculture", accepted by the people and the cantons and firmly anchored in the Federal Constitution, remains valid until 27 November 2010. Before that date genetically modified plants may not be cultivated and genetically modified animals may not be used for the production of foodstuffs and agricultural products. The sowing of genetically modified seeds is allowed under strict controls for research purposes.

As early as May 2008 the Federal Council had decided to propose to the Parliament an extension of the moratorium. The DETEC then compiled a dispatch for the amendment to the Gene Technology Act which the Federal Council passed to Parliament on 1 July 2009.  The most important point is a new transitory provision which will extend the current moratorium by three years.

It was argued before the vote in November 2005 that the moratorium would allow more time for the development of scientific principles which at that time were not available. In December 2005 the National Research Programme 59 on "Benefits and risks of genetically modified plants" (NFP 59) was initiated. Its final report is planned for the middle of 2012.

By extending the moratorium until 27 November 2013 the Federal Council would like to ensure that the NFP 59 can be continued and completed before this date, so that the scientific and legal principles which are lacking can be developed. Sufficient time should be made available for the research results to be implemented and any issues relating to the law on gene technology to be dealt with. Not least, the Federal Council would like to take into account the fact that there is no urgent requirement for genetically modified organisms within the foodstuffs industry either from agricultural producers or from consumers.

Result of the consultation proceedings

In the course of the consultation proceedings all the cantons decided in favour of an extension to the moratorium. The Swiss Farmers' Association and all other farmers' organisations, consumer organisations and environmental organisations support the extension. The moratorium is rejected, on the other hand, in research circles and by some economic organisations. Amongst the political parties there are voices for accepting and for rejecting it.

Preparation for the time after the moratorium

According to the Federal Council's dispatch, the extended moratorium would end on 27 November 2013. By this time the conditions for the agricultural production of genetically modified organisms must be fixed so that the concerns of farmers and consumers and the conservation of biodiversity can be taken into account. The particular issues here are:

  • To avoid mixing genetically modified organisms with conventionally and biologically produced products
  • To protect seed propagation
  • To allow the consumers freedom of choice
  • To protect the flora of particularly sensitive or vulnerable habitats from possible cross-breeding with genetically modified organisms

The concrete implementation of these goals has not yet been achieved. The Federal Council has commissioned the DETEC and the FDEA to put forward appropriate draft regulations by the end of October 2013 at the latest.

Address for enquiries

Georg Karlaganis, Head of the Division for Materials, Soil, Biotechnology
FOEN, tel. + 41 (0) 79 415 99 62
Hans Hosbach, Head of the Section for Biotechnology and Substance Flows, FOEN, tel. + 41 (0) 31 322 54 36
Florian Wild, Head of the Legal Division, FOEN, tel + 41 (0) 31 324 93 06


Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications

General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC