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Switzerland holds referendum on genetic engineering

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7146.1696 (Published 06 June 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1696
  1. Adrea Mach
  1. Geneva

    The Swiss public will decide in a referendum on 7 June whether to endorse an initiative banning the production and distribution of transgenic animals, field trials with genetically modified organisms of any sort, and the patenting of genetically modified animals and plants. The ramifications for Swiss biotechnology research, university teaching, clinical patients, and the national economy are unprecedented.

    Given that biotechnology is one of Switzerland's key industries, with two of the world's most successful pharmaceutical companies, Novartis and Roche, based in the country, it is small wonder that there has been wide public debate.

    Feature articles fill the Swiss papers, call-in radio programmes abound, and emotionally manipulative placards fill the streets: “Genetic engineering saves lives: don't kill their hopes. Vote NO to the initiative to prohibit genetic engineering,” countered a few metres farther on by another poster …

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