NRP 59 "Benefits and Risks of the Deliberate Release of Genetically Modified Plants"

The Federal Council requested in 2005 that the Swiss National Science Foundation implement the National Research Programme NRP 59 “Benefits and Risks of the Deliberate Release of Genetically Modified Plants”. This was done in the following context:

Using genetics to modify plants offers perspectives far beyond those of normal cross-breeding. This is why these plants have been authorized for use in many countries. But genetically modified (GM) plants are also controversial, in particular in Switzerland.

In 2005, Swiss voters accepted a five-year moratorium on the commercial use of GM plants, which lasted until 2010 and has been prolonged by the Federal Council until 2013.

Until then, it is up to researchers to find out more about the benefits and risks of these plants. Even though huge progress has been made from a scientific standpoint, there are plenty of unanswered questions.

For example, Switzerland with its small-size structured agriculture needs to consider the highly relevant issue of how well GM and traditional crops can coexist. Other points that need to be clarified are whether GM plants bring any economic benefit, can be eco-friendly or are acceptable to society. Finally, it remains to be seen if consumers have anything to gain.

Facts & figures

Overall funding

CHF 12'000'000

Period of research

4 years

President of the Steering Committee

Dirk Dobbelaere (†)

Head of Knowledge transfer

Beat Glogger, scitec-media GmbH, Winterthur

Programme co-ordinators

Stefan Husi, Pascal Walther, SNSF


2007 - 2011


Review of International Literature

Karin Hoffmann-Sommergruber, Karoline Dorsch-Häsler, Medical Issues Related to Genetically Modified Plants of Relevance to Switzerland, 2012

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Joachim Scholderer, Wim Verbeke, Genetically Modified Crop Production: Social Sciences, Agricultural Economics, and Costs and Benefits of Coexistence, 2012

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Jeremy Sweet, Detlef Bartsch, Synthesis and Overview Studies to Evaluate Existing Research and Knowledge on Biological Issues on GM Plants of Relevance to Swiss Environments, 2012

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