Switzerland could be the first European country to ban synthetic pesticides

Pesticide and GMO free tomatoes, photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Pesticide and GMO free tomatoes, photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Switzerland could become the first European country to ban artificial pesticides. On Sunday, a referendum will take place where citizens will decide if they want a ban on synthetic pesticides used in agriculture.

Supporters want Switzerland to ban the use of products made by agrochemical companies like Syngenta, Bayer and BASF.

Campaigners say artificial pesticides contaminate surrounding soil and water sources, reduce biodiversity, destroy beneficial insect populations that act as natural enemies of pests and reduce the nutritional value of food.

Clean water initiative
On the same day, citizens will also vote on another initiative that aims to improve Switzerland’s water and food quality by stopping direct subsidies to farmers who use artificial pesticides and antibiotics in farm animals.

The clean water initiative also wants farmers to stop using imported animal food and have fewer cows, pigs and chickens stuck on farms in Switzerland.

“People have been sold a romantic image of farming in Switzerland, which is far removed from reality,” said Pascal Scheiwiller, a backer of the clean water campaign, which estimates 1 million Swiss people drink contaminated water.

If adopted, the proposals give farmers up to ten years to make the transition. Switzerland would become a leader in organic food and drink production.

From chemical to organic
“Our drink water will sometime in the future, 20 or 30 years, be pure again, our soil would be fertile again,” organic winemaker Roland Lenz told Reuters.

Lenz said using artificial pesticides was “sheer lunacy”, especially when it was possible to use methods such as growing fruit with thicker skins to make them fungus resistant.

“With a ‘Yes’ vote on both initiatives, we will finally move from the chemical age back to the organic age,” Lenz added.

Swiss are divided
Syngenta, which is headquartered in Switzerland and owned by China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), opposes both initiatives, saying a ban would reduce agricultural production by up to 40%.

Switzerland is divided over the initiatives. A recent Tamedia poll showed 48% of voters favored the drinking water initiative, and 49% supported the pesticide ban.

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