16 May 2018 --- The popular initiative to ban synthetic pesticides has garnered enough formal support to force a nationwide vote in Switzerland. Entitled “For a Switzerland free of synthetic pesticides,” a formal petition was signed by more than 100,000 citizens in the country. By Swiss law, the federal government will now have the task to organize and conduct an associated ballot referendum to be held within two years.
The initiative was conceived and launched by a small, non-partisan group of private citizens, with no support from political parties or international NGOs. Should the initiative be passed by the popular majority, Switzerland would be the first country to impose a total ban on the use of synthetic pesticides.
Antoinette Gilson, Co-chair of the Support Committee for International Communication told FoodIngredientsFirst: “If the Swiss people vote in favor of this initiative, a ban on the use of synthetic pesticides will be applied within a period of ten years to all sectors using them: farming, landscaping and construction The same rule will apply to imports. Only food produced without the use of these chemicals will be able to enter the Swiss Food market.”
“The 100,000 signatures will be delivered to the Federal Chancellery in Bern on May 25. They will be checked out and transferred to the Conseil Federal, which has one year to give its recommendations to the Parliament. The Parliament has two years to accept the initiative or come up with a counter initiative. Once on the ballot, if the Swiss citizens vote in favor of it, then the period of adaptation of ten years proposed by the initiative starts.”
“We cannot presume of what other countries will do,” notes Gilson. “We think Switzerland is a small country with the technical, political and financial means to create agricultural practices that are truly sustainable and healthy for its population and the environment.”
“Consumers are increasingly demanding nutritious food without negative consequences for their health or that of the environment. The Food industry will have to adapt to this reasonable request,” she explains.
Also commenting on the vote, Prof. Edward A. D. Mitchell, Institute of Biology, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland said: “I am convinced that other countries may follow suit. Indeed, we see an increasing awareness about these questions globally as shown in the EU by the heated debates about glyphosate and now the (partial) ban on neonicotinoids. Switzerland with its direct democracy system is somewhat different from other countries, making such a change perhaps more likely in the short term. This puts us in a privileged position to act proactively rather than in response to government actions, and with this goes a responsibility to do so. This is my personal opinion and it is likely that many Swiss citizens also think this.”
The formal submission to the Swiss Federal Chancellery of the initiative and its accompanying signed petitions will take place on May 25 on the Place Fédérale in Bern.
By Elizabeth Green
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