Switzerland To Vote On Country-Wide Pesticide Ban
(Beyond Pesticides, June 5, 2018) After more than 100,000 Swiss citizens signed a petition calling for a ban on pesticides, Switzerland will soon have to vote on a complete ban on the use of synthetic pesticides. The ban would apply to farmers, industries, and imported goods, and advocates hope this measure would cause other EU nations to follow.
Switzerland, home of the world’s largest pesticide manufacturer, Syngenta, has been engaged in the debate raging across the European Union (EU) about the future use of pesticides. Recently, the EU reapproved glyphosate (Roundup) after months of deadlock, while certain countries like France have indicated that it will ban the chemical within three years. Now, the Swiss initiative, according to the BBC, will make it the first country in Europe to ban all synthetic pesticides, and the second in the world after Bhutan imposed a ban in 2013.
Swiss group, Future3, advocated for a ban and began collecting signatures in a crowd-funded initiative. More than 100,000 signatures have been collected, and on May 25, the details of the signatures will be checked and transferred to the Federal Council – the Swiss federal cabinet – which has one year to give recommendations to parliament. The legislators then have two further years to accept the initiative and schedule a vote or to come up with a counter-initiative that could also feature on the ballot. If passed, all synthetic pesticides would be phased out over a period of 10 years.
“To not use any pesticides will trigger a complete change in agricultural practices,” said Antoinette Gilson who is with the Swiss citizens’ group Future3 that are pushing for the ban. “It might be difficult to go through, but in Switzerland already around 13% of farmers are organic. I talk to a lot of them and I have not met one who has regretted giving up pesticides.”
The ban would also apply to imports which could have significant impacts on neighboring countries as Switzerland imports almost 500kg of food per head of population, according to figures from the Federal Customs Administration. Supporters of the initiative think that if the Switzerland vote is eventually carried, it will have reverberated effect on other countries. Unsurprisingly, farmers and industry representatives are dismissive of the idea of the referendum, saying that it is too extreme and will not gain popular support.
With tensions high over the review of Monsanto’s controversial glyphosate, other harmful pesticides, and industry’s influence in decision-making processes, the European Parliament decided to set up a special committee to look into the EU’s authorization procedure for pesticides. The special committee is to assess the authorization procedure for pesticides in the EU and potential failures in how substances are scientifically evaluated and approved.
In April, EU member states backed a proposal to further restrict uses of bee-toxic neonicotinoids finding the pesticides’ outdoor uses harm bees. These restrictions go beyond those already put in place in 2013, and now all outdoor uses of clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam will be banned. The European Commission, the protection of bees is an important issue since it concerns biodiversity, food production, and the environment. The new restrictions agreed to on April 27 go beyond the 2013 ban. All outdoor use of the three substances will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where no contact with bees is expected. French scientists say parts of their country’s forests, streams, and bucolic landscapes could be completely devoid of birdsong this year, as the results of two recent studies show staggering declines in bird populations throughout the nation linked to the intensification of agricultural practices and pesticide use.
While the U.S. continues to languish in regulatory inertia, the best way to avoid harmful pesticides is to support organic practices in landscapes and agriculture and purchase organic food. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster biodiversity, and research shows that organic land management does a better job of protecting biodiversity than its chemical-intensive counterparts. Instead of the prophylactic use of pesticides and crops bioengineered with insecticides, responsible organic practices focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and ecological balance and only resort to the judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective.
As evidence of the hazardous effects of glyphosate continues to mount, environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, are urging localities to ban or restrict the use of the chemical and other toxic synthetic pesticides.
Source: BBC News