Switzerland may become the first European country to ban the use of artificial pesticides in a referendum on June 13, and supporters of the initiative hope this will prompt other countries to introduce similar bans.
In the world, only Bhutan completely bans synthetic pesticides and hopes to ban the use of products by agrochemical giants such as Swiss Syngenta, Bayer and BASF.
Supporters of the ban claim that man-made products can cause serious health problems and threaten biodiversity. Manufacturers claim that their pesticides are strictly tested and regulated and can be used safely. Without them, crops would be reduced.
Another initiative voted on the same day was to eliminate direct subsidies to farmers who use artificial pesticides and antibiotics to raise livestock to improve the quality of drinking water and food in Switzerland.
Switzerland is divided in an extremely fierce debate on the initiative, and the result of the referendum may be very tense. A recent poll by Tamedia found that 48% of voters support the drinking water initiative and 49% support the ban on pesticides.
Swiss wine producer Roland Lenz said that if the proposal is passed, farmers should have a transition period of up to 10 years, which will make Switzerland a pioneer in organic food and a model for other parts of the world.
Lenz, a 51-year-old organic farmer, said: “Clean water is one of the foundations of life and is in danger.” His vineyard is surrounded by farmers who oppose the initiative.
Syngenta, headquartered in Switzerland and owned by China National Chemical Corporation, opposed these two measures and claimed that the ban would reduce crops by as much as 40%.
“The consequences of not using (pesticides) are obvious: regional products are reduced, prices are increased, and imports are increased. This is not in the interests of consumers or the environment,” a Syngent spokesperson said.
The Clean Water Initiative also called on farmers to stop using imported animal feed to limit Swiss cattle, pigs and chickens, as well as the amount of manure that could contaminate drinking water.