Green activists oppose Zurich GMO research
Scientists seeking to grow genetically modified wheat on three hectares of fields in the canton of Zurich are facing protests from environmentalists.
Experts from the University of Zurich want to test the GMO crop on a site at an Agroscope research station in Reckenholz that would be specially designed to prevent vandalism.
But Greenpeace has already voiced its opposition to the research project, slated to start next year, which requires approval from the federal environment department.
“Switzerland does not need new trials in the open air,” the environmental group said in a statement.
“The effects of genetically modified crops on the health of humans and animals are not known,” the group said.
Farmers in Switzerland are not allowed to grow GMOs under a moratorium dating from 2005 that has almost four years to run before it expires at the end of 2017.
The federal government last month recommended against extending the moratorium.
Currently, scientific experiments are permitted, under tight restrictions, but activists sabotaged previous efforts by University of Zurich scientists between 2008 and 2010.
Crops were destroyed on fields in Reckenholz and in Pully in the canton of Vaud.
Agroscope, the national centre for agricultural research, said it is offering a site for researchers that would be fenced and equipped with surveillance and alarm systems.
“In the ground tests of the genetically modified plants, researchers will study how these plants react in the environment,” Michael Winzeler, Agroscope’s head of biodiversity and environmental management research, said in a statement.
“They are analysing, equally, the usefulness and the risks that new GM plants pose for agriculture.”
The scientists want to test modified wheat resistant to fungal disease that has already been studied in the laboratory and in greenhouses.