The survey, requested by BirdLife Suisse, Greenpeace, Pro Natura and WWF Switzerland, found that 65% of the close to 1,000 surveyed would like pesticide use reduced in Switzerland.
In addition, 49% favoured restricting government support payments to only those who engaged in organic farming. Water contamination was of particular concern. 74% thought there should be no pesticides in Swiss drinking water, something that is likely to be far from true based on recent waterway tests conducted by Eawag, a Swiss water research institute.
The responses didn’t vary much based on gender, location, education or income level differences. A majority of both men (71%) and women (78%) agreed or strongly agreed there should be no pesticides in drinking water as did low (74%) and high (78%) income earners.
Unlike many referendum results, there was little difference between city (71%) and country (72%) folk.
The biggest differences were regional, French speakers (81%) versus German speakers (72%), age related, 18-39 (61%), 40-64 (80%), and 65+ (82%), and education related, low (74%), high (81%). Overall however the differences were small suggesting broad support for some form of action to remedy the problem.
A recent Eaweg waterways study found 128 different pesticides across five waterways in the cantons of Bern, Basel-Landschaft, Thurgau, Ticino and Valais. None of the water tested met the standards required under Switzerland’s water protection regulations. The results are of particular concern given that some synthetic chemical pesticides take a long time to breakdown and therefore build up over time in underground water tables.
Eawag researchers said the catchment areas in question are representative of intense agricultural use. Agriculture, alongside micropollutants released from wastewater treatment plants, are the most important source of contaminants in Swiss surface waters, they said. Freshwater shrimps (Gammarids) released in one of the watercourses exhibited increased mortality and lethargy, associated with elevated pesticide concentrations. The report described the number of 128 different agricultural agents they found as very high. In total they found 61 herbicides, 45 fungicides and 22 insecticides.
The organisations requesting the GFS survey are calling on the federal government to come up with an ambitious plan to reduce pesticide use in Swiss agriculture. Daniela Hoffmann, an agriculture expert at WWF Switzerland, said that “It’s time we had an ambitious plan to reduce pesticides along with more human and financial resources to implement it.”
GFS survey (in German)
Persistently high pesticide levels found in small streams – Eawag (in English)