Switzerland extends moratorium - also for new genetic engineering

- The Swiss National Council has voted to extend the moratorium on genetic engineering, which has been in place since 2005, until the end of 2025. The approval of this second chamber of parliament is considered certain. The moratorium now also explicitly applies to new genetic engineering methods. Motions to exempt these had been rejected by a large majority in the National Council.

Good news for the European "Ohne Gentechnik" [Non-GMO] sector

"Genetic engineering and Swiss alp cheese simply do not fit. But the extended moratorium is good news not only for Switzerland, but also for the entire European 'Ohne Gentechnik' sector. It is particularly pleasing to learn that, despite vociferous counter-campaigning by genetic engineering advocates, it now explicitly applies to new genetic engineering as well. The moratorium creates security in the cross-border trade of Swiss specialties for four more years," comments VLOG Managing Director Alexander Hissting.

Swiss Government wants to discuss and develop detection methods

From the point of view of the government, which proposed the extension, the time should be used to "answer open questions about new genetic engineering methods and to discuss their place in sustainable agriculture." At the same time, "the necessary knowledge for the detectability of the corresponding products is to be developed, in order to ensure the freedom of choice for consumers." The Parliament has instructed the Federal Council, i.e. the cabinet, to clarify questions regarding the coexistence of traditional and GMO-based agriculture in particular over the next four years.

79 percent of Swiss support extension

The "Schweizer Allianz Gentechfrei (SAG)" [Swiss Alliance GM-free] has welcomed the extension and the inclusion of new genetic engineering methods. "With this decision, which is in line with the precautionary principle, sustainable Swiss quality agriculture will be strengthened, the environment and public health will be protected and the freedom of choice for consumers will be secured," SAG writes. A survey conducted by, a platform financed by Syngenta and Bayer. shows that people in Switzerland continue to support the moratorium. The survey indicates that 73 percent reject genetically modified crops. 79 percent support an extended moratorium.

SAG: "glossing over" new genetic engineering

Advocates of new genetic engineering try to put such clear statements into perspective by deliberately highlighting the supposed advantages of their methods. The Bayer/Syngenta survey mentioned above showed that just under half of the respondents were unable to understand the term genome editing. So, the pollsters explained the term in an abbreviated and benign way, without a word about possible risks. Promptly, two-thirds of the respondents found new genetic engineering methods useful for agriculture. Approval was particularly high when opinions about very specific possible applications, such as fire blight-resistant apple varieties, were inquired. The SAG criticizes these "glossy examples with miracle plants, none of which are even close to being ready for the market in real terms."

Nevertheless, Switzerland's largest retailer, Migros, has also been caught up in such examples. In the debate about the moratorium extension, the company pleaded for easier approvals for such plants. Incidentally, this differs from Migros' German subsidiary Tegut and its retail partner Alnatura, both of which strictly reject new genetic engineering. In the Swiss party landscape, the Free Democrats and the Green-Liberals are supporting new genetic engineering. Their motions to exempt it from the moratorium were rejected by the National Council by 144 votes to 27, with 19 abstentions.

Swiss Confederation: GMO cultivation: Federal Council wants to extend moratorium (11 November 2020) (in German)

SRF: Softening of the GMO moratorium has no chance in the National Council (23 November 2021) (in German)

Keystone-SDA: National Council extends GM moratorium until end of 2025 (23 November 2021) (in German)

SAG: Moratorium extension supported by majority of Swiss population (23 September 2021) (in German)

SAG: Large majority of Swiss population supports moratorium extension (20 September 2021) (in German) Study on genome editing (September 2021) (in German)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Migros gives green genetic engineering a chance (06 April 2021) (in German)