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Switzerland rejects proposal to become first country in Europe to ban pesticides

An extension of emergency Covid laws was set to be passed.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated Jun 13th 2021, 6:00 PM

SWITZERLAND HAS REJECTED proposals that would have made it the first European country to ban synthetic pesticides following a divisive campaign.

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.

shutterstock_1726057444 The Swiss government called for voters to reject the proposal to ban pesticides. Source: Shutterstock

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 completely 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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Anti-terror laws

The new anti-terror laws extend police powers to prevent future attacks, allowing them to take preventative action more easily when faced with a “potential terrorist”.

If police believe someone over the age of 12 is contemplating violent actions, the law allows them to conduct greater surveillance, limit their movements and oblige them to face questioning.

Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, told AFP the government had “clearly misled the Swiss people” as to who the law could be applied to and their likely effectiveness.

Some 59% of the votes in so far have backed a Covid-19 law that will extend government emergency powers to fight the pandemic and mitigate its consequences on society and the economy.

Besides the pesticide initiatives, environmental protection was also at stake in a tightly contested referendum on new carbon dioxide laws.

53% of the votes counted so far have gone against the laws

© – AFP, 2021

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