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Technikfolgen Risikoanalyse
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Review and Prospects of Biosafety in Switzerland

Press report from 4/5/2002

The results and perspectives of biosafety research in Switzerland were introduced and discussed at a conference in Bern on April 5, 2002.
The topic of possible effects of cultivating transgenic plants has made the headlines quite often in the last few years. However, reports on other biological risks, such as those that could be caused by composting bio-waste, appeared seldom. None the less, it is important that the advantages and disadvantages of all applications of biotechnology - regardless of whether gene technology was implemented or not - should be critically judged. With this in mind, the Biotechnology Priority Program (SPP Biotech) of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) financed a multitude of projects from 1992 until 2001. The goal was to accompany all current developments in the applications of biotechnology. The projects were arranged with several different federal authorities and were not only nationally but also internationally networked.
During that time frame, researchers developed, on the one hand, methods for estimating the impact of various modern and traditional plant protection strategies (for example, the effects on related wild species, non-targeted organisms). On the other hand, microorganisms which appear in our environment and in our daily lives were studied in-depth. For many areas, methods of investigation had to first be developed. Today there are several specific and highly sensitive methods to detect pathogens, for example in soil, compost, food, water or medical products.
The program director of the SPP Biotech, Oreste Ghisalba, is of the opinion that the biosafety research in Switzerland needs to continue even after the official conclusion of the SPP Biotech, while maintaining and expanding the existing research networks as much as possible. The accompanying research must progress away from the risk-laden view and toward an identification with new chances and advantages", pleaded Ghisalba additionally. Othmar Käppeli from the BATS Centre in Basel commented: "Experience shows, that impact research should span all areas of application of the biosciences and beyond that, all economical, ecological, social and ethical questions from the individual disciplines need to be taken into consideration". In order to meet the necessary requirements for this demand, a plan for a wide-reaching national research program has been submitted to the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science.
In the podium discussion, all agreed unanimously that the biosafety research should be continued. In order to promote acceptance for the financing from tax money, Federal Council member Johannes Randegger underscored that on the one hand the needs of the society have to be addressed, on the other hand the scientific world has to "sell" itself better.

© Copyright Agency BATS: Contact Legal Advisor: Advokatur Prudentia-Law Date of publishing: 2002-04-05

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