Marketing of genetically modified organisms
Moratorium on the cultivation of GMOs
The marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMO) is regulated by the Gene Technology Act and the Release Ordinance, as also through the corresponding product legislation. In 2005, the Swiss electorate approved an Initiative in favour of a Moratorium on GMOs in agriculture. This Moratorium was originally time-limited to the end of 2010, but has since been extended three times. On the last occasion, in December 2012, Parliament voted to extend it until the end of 2021. Until this Moratorium expires no genetically modified plants may be commercially cultivated in Switzerland. The Moratorium does not apply to field trials of GMOs, or to the marketing of GMOs as food or feedstuffs.
Marketing of genetically modified plants as food and feedstuffs
The SECB has already received several applications to market genetically modified plants as food or feedstuff; it will issue statements on these in due course, but the applications are currently still being processed by the federal authorities responsible. The SECB has evaluated possible impacts on humans, animals and the environment. In relation to the environment, the SECB was primarily concerned with any impacts that could result from the loss of genetically modified grains during transport, or through the mixing of conventional and genetically modified seed. The SECB Statements are published only after the federal authority responsible has made its decision. One genetically modified strain of soya and three genetically modified strains of maize have so far been authorised in Switzerland.
Tolerances for traces of unlicensed genetically modified organisms in food
Despite compulsory product flow segregation, in practice it cannot always be ruled out that genetically modified organisms approved in other countries could find their way into the Swiss food chain. The rules therefore tolerate the presence of tiny traces of unlicensed GMOs in food. Such traces must be the result of unintentional mixing, and may not exceed a threshold of 0.5% per ingredient. In addition, the GMO must have gone through an authorisation procedure in other countries, and any risk to humans, animals or the environment must be excluded. The SECB receives such applications from the Federal Office of Public Health for its opinion. Four such applications have so far been approved.