Voting June 2021: pesticide and drinking water initiatives – all information

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Every year 2000 tons of pesticides are sold in Switzerland. PICTURED: KEYSTONE

Why the farmers are storming against the drinking water and pesticide initiatives

What next in agriculture? Two popular initiatives are addressing this question. In June we will vote on the drinking water and pesticide initiative. We answer the seven most pressing questions.

On June 13, 2021 we will vote on two initiatives that deal with agriculture and pesticides. Our drinking water and its pollution play an eminent role in this. But one after anonther:

How clean is our drinking water really?

In January 2020, a report from Solothurn made headlines: The canton reported that the drinking water contained too much chlorothalonil.

80 percent of Swiss drinking water comes from groundwater reserves. The rest is covered by lake water that is treated. Image: DPA

The pesticide has been used by farmers to protect vegetables and fruits since the 1970s. The Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) has classified these chlorothalonil residues as relevant for drinking water quality based on new findings. “Because of the new limit values, various groundwater resources have recently been considered contaminated,” says Michael Schärer, head of the water protection section at the Federal Office for the Environment, in a press release.

Basically, however, Swiss drinking water has one quality quality, so the FSVO. And it is also checked regularly for microbiological, chemical and micro-contamination.

What does the drinking water initiative want?

As already described in point one, drinking water is contaminated by pesticides in many places. These pollutants find their way into the soil and water through agricultural production, among other things.

That is exactly what the popular initiative wants “For clean drinking water and healthy food – no subsidies for the use of pesticides and prophylactic antibiotics” prevent. The initiators demand that farmers in the future only receive direct payments if they produce without pesticides and antibiotics and do not pollute the drinking water. The initiative also wants companies to only keep as many animals as they can feed with Swiss feed.

Specifically, Article 104 is to be added to the Federal Constitution so that subsidies are only given to those who do not use antibiotics prophylactically in animal husbandry. If the initiative is accepted, the federal government would have to monitor the implementation of the regulations. Politicians would have eight years to implement it.

Who is behind the initiative?

Behind the initiative is the society «Clean water For all». Its president, Franziska Herren, also referred to as the “peasant fright” by “Blick”, is the driving force behind the matter. Herren thinks that today’s system creates false incentives. “We subsidize our own water pollution, with tax money, with 3.5 billion a year,” said Herren to the NZZ.

Herren and their association receive support from various independent scientists, organic farmers and environmental and nature organizations such as the Swiss one fishingBandage, Greenpeace or Pro Nature. Voted in parliament SP, Green and GLP mostly for the initiative.

The Federal Constitution is to be adapted

bild: screenshot/bk.admin.ch

According to the pro-camp, it is time for the environmental goals of agriculture, which have been in place for over twenty years, to be finally achieved. According to the initiators, the redirection of the subsidies will enable the farmers to produce successfully in harmony with the natural foundations of life. In addition, the initiative would significantly reduce the foreign dependency of Swiss food production and stop the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Who is against?

The initiators’ strongest opponent is the Swiss Farmers Association (SBV). The proposed constitutional amendment goes far too far for the SBV. If the initiative were accepted, from the point of view of the No Committee there would be less domestic production, more imports, higher food prices, more food waste as well as a loss of jobs and added value.

Also the Federal Council and a bourgeois majority reject the initiative in parliament. Most opponents maintain that the initiators’ basic concern is justified. But with the proposal just passed by parliament to reduce the use of pesticides, the basic goal of the initiators has already been achieved. It stipulates, for example, that the risks associated with the use of pesticides for rivers and lakes, near-natural habitats and groundwater used as drinking water should be halved by 2027.

What does the pesticide initiative want?

An Air Glacier helicopter sprays vines against vermin in Valais. PICTURED: KEYSTONE

As the name suggests, the initiative is also busy “For a Switzerland without synthetic pesticides (pesticide initiative)” with pesticides. The initiators want to ban synthetic pesticides. The means should may no longer be used in Switzerland. The template also includes a Import ban for food made with the help of synthetic pesticides. The bans should come into force no later than ten years after the popular initiative has been adopted.

Who is behind the pesticide initiative?

The “Future3” association launched the initiative. The initiators argue that the initiative promotes health.

It is scientifically proven that synthetic pesticides are harmful to human health even in the smallest concentrations. The initiative also strengthens biodiversity. The environment, animals and plants would suffer from the use of pesticides.

The Federal Constitution is to be adapted

bild: screenshot/bk.admin.ch

The initiative will also strengthen agriculture because the import ban protects Swiss farms. And finally, the initiative is business-friendly because innovation processes promote research and are an opportunity for SMEs and start-ups.

They decided on the yes slogan Greens, the SP and the EVP. The Green liberals to have Voice approval decided. The pesticide initiative is also supported by the associations Bio Suisse and Demeter Switzerland.

Who is in the contra camp?

Of the Federal Council and the Parliament reject the initiative. The opponents argue that the use of pesticides has been declining for years. The Federal Council declared that the initiative would lower Switzerland’s level of self-sufficiency and would be dangerous for food security.

An import ban also violated international treaties – especially with the EU. The Swiss Farmers’ Association (SBV) is also opposing the initiative. He commissioned a study that found that if you did not use pesticides, agricultural yields would decrease by 20 to 40 percent. Ultimately, the export industry would also suffer from the ban, say the opponents. Since pesticides are also used to comply with hygiene measures, production would become more expensive.

They decided on the no-slogan Please, the FDP and The Not. Of the Swiss Farmers Association (SBV) and numerous other agricultural associations and food producers also reject the initiative.

With material from the sda

* In a first version of this article it was stated that 20,000 tons of pesticides are sold every year. This is wrong. It’s only 2000 tons.

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Voting June pesticide drinking water initiatives information

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