• Monday, Oct 18, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:14 pm

Swiss snub synthetic pesticide ban plan

  • Published at 09:26 pm June 13th, 2021
A sign to vote ‘no’ is pictured to curb the use of pesticides in agriculture
A sign to vote ‘no’ is pictured to curb the use of pesticides in agriculture, in Penthaz on May 31, 2021 Reuters

No major country has so far banned man-made pesticides

Switzerland on Sunday rejected proposals that would have made it the first European country to ban synthetic pesticides following a divisive campaign that shattered the idyllic image of peaceful Swiss Alpine pastures.

Voters heeded the government's advice and rejected the two publically-proposed initiatives that would have changed the landscape for Swiss farming.

A double majority of voters and cantons is required to push through popular initiatives and with results declared so far in 22 of the 23 full cantons, a majority in 21 have said no to the plans. The percentage of votes against the proposals was running at 62%.

Meanwhile controversial sweeping new police powers to combat terrorism seem set to pass -- despite warnings from the United Nations and Amnesty International -- with around 57% of the votes so far approving the new laws.

Under Switzerland's direct democracy system, referendums and popular votes occur every few months at national, regional and local levels.

Any idea from the public can be put to a national vote as long as it gathers 100,000 signatures from the 8.6 million population.

So-called popular initiatives need a double majority to pass.

Meanwhile, 50,000 signatures are needed to trigger a referendum on new laws agreed by parliament. They need a simple majority of votes to pass.

Poisonous pesticide debate

No major country has so far banned man-made pesticides. Bhutan announced in 2012 that it wanted to become the first nation in the world to turn its home-grown food and farmers 100% organic.

Switzerland's national vote on two anti-pesticide proposals was the culmination of a campaign marked by heated arguments.

Arsonists torched a trailer in the western Vaud canton displaying "No" banners, while "Yes"-backing farmers said they had been the victims of insults, threats and intimidation.

The first popular initiative, entitled "For a Switzerland free from synthetic pesticides", called for a domestic ban within 10 years, and the outlawing of imported foodstuffs produced using such pesticides.

Under the second initiative, "For clean drinking water and healthy food", only farms that do not use pesticides and use antibiotics only to treat sick animals would be eligible for government subsidies.

The amount of liquid manure being used on fields, and thereby potentially entering the water system, would also be limited.

The Swiss government called for a double "No" vote, arguing that the proposals would undermine national food sovereignty.

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