Swiss back GMO moratorium and labour law

The Swiss will have five years of GM-free agriculture Keystone

Swiss voters have backed a call for a five-year ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Swiss agriculture.

This content was published on November 27, 2005 minutes

The electorate also narrowly approved a plan to ease restrictions on Sunday shopping, which was challenged by trade unions.

Near-final results show almost 56 per cent of voters approving a people's initiative for a temporary ban on GMOs.

All the country's 26 cantons backed the proposals by environmentalists and consumer groups.

The ballot on the GMO moratorium comes after parliament passed a new law in 2003, which allows GM crops in Switzerland under certain conditions.

Supporters of the proposal argue GMOs are neither in the interest of consumers nor of Swiss farmers, and that a moratorium is an opportunity for farmers to improve their marketing for natural production methods.

Consumers and research

The government, the business community, as well as the main centre-right and rightwing parties, all came out against a temporary ban on GMOs.

They argue the current law contains enough safety guarantees and a ban could be detrimental to biotechnology research in the country.

But the lobby groups, supported by the Greens and the centre-left Social Democrats, say their aim is not to oppose research but to allow time to consider the potential risks of GMOs.

The electorate overwhelmingly voted down a far-reaching ban on GMOs in 1998.

Unions and church

In a separate vote, the Swiss narrowly approved an amendment to the labour law, which aims at easing restrictions on Sunday trading at the country's main railway stations and airports.

Just over 50 per cent of voters approved the amended legislation with 49.4 per cent opposed, according to officials.

The trade unions, supported by the centre-left Social Democrats and the country's main churches, mounted a challenge to the revised legislation. They are concerned that relaxed regulations will lead to a seven-day working week.

The government, three of the main centre-right and rightwing parties and the business community all backed more relaxed rules.

They say there is a growing consumer demand for shops at the country's main public transport hubs to open on Sundays.

Shops in Switzerland usually remain closed on Sundays and public holidays, but numerous exceptions have been introduced, mainly in tourists areas, service stations and at airports and railway stations.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Under a 2003 law, the Swiss parliament approved the use of GM crops under strict conditions.
Surveys have shown that consumers have little interest in GM products.
Sunday work in Switzerland is banned in principle under 19th century labour legislation.
Shop opening hours are decided at a regional and local level and the authorities have eased Sunday trading restrictions over the past decades.

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