‘What are we afraid of?’ Swiss farm officials frustrated by government’s proposed GMO ban extension

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Protesters stage a sit-in during their march against the multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology companies Monsanto and Syngenta in Basel, Switzerland, Saturday, May 21, 2016. Credit: Georgios Kefalas/Keystone)

Making agricultural production more sustainable is a matter of survival for the global population, with an estimated nine billion mouths to feed by 2050. We will need to produce 1.1% more calories per year to meet this growing demand but this should not come from using more land. One quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture.

In this context, Agroscope’s Eva Reinhard says Switzerland’s GMO ban is out of step. “One degree of climate warming means three to four per cent lower [crop] yields. We already have a problem with drought resistance, and with GMO we can do something about that relatively quickly,” she said at the LifeFair Forum, an online conference about high-tech food.

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Reinhard added that it was still unclear which methods may lawfully be used in Switzerland to breed new products for the market. “That makes plant growers unsure and is particularly difficult for the commercial plant breeding sector.”

“What are we afraid of? I don’t understand it anymore,” she said, pointing to the fact that the gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 won the Nobel Prize this year.

“We have been looking at gene technology progressing for the past 40 or 50 years abroad. We’ve done x number of field tests and there hasn’t been any catastrophe. And still we have to wait.”

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