With five weeks to go before Swiss vote on two initiatives aimed at drastically cutting the use of pesticides, more than 50% appear to be in favour of both initiatives, according to RTS.
One of these initiatives, the clean drinking water initiative, aims to tie access to Switzerland’s generous farm subsidies to forgoing pesticide (and antibiotic) use. The second aims to ban the use of synthetic pesticide use more broadly after a 10 year transition period.
A recent poll suggests 54% are either for (33%) or fairly for (21%) the clean drinking water initiative, and 55% are either for (33%) or fairly for (22%) the ban on synthetic pesticide use. Only 28% are firmly against both.
Over 80% say they will vote the same way for both initiatives.
The greatest support for the clean drinking water initiative was among Green party members (95%), Socialists (80%) and Liberal Greens (73%). Members of the Swiss People’s Party (62%) and PLR (54%) both had majorities against this initiative.
The percentages were similar for the vote to ban synthetic pesticides: Green party members (96%), Socialists (80%) and Liberal Greens (66%). Members of the Swiss People’s Party (61%) and PLR (56%) both had majorities against this initiative.
To some extent these initiatives pit farmers against urbanites. The Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) has a long history of supporting farmers, and restricting pesticide use would require farmers to change the way they operate. Those that don’t farm are likely to be more focused on their health and the harm done to the environment and less concerned about changes they won’t need to make.
In rural areas 53% were against the clean drinking water initiative and 58% against the synthetic pesticide ban. In the cities, only 29% were against both and large majorities in favour (65% and 66%)
Voters could be excused for feeling confused. One confusing aspect is how the arguments for and against these initiatives are sometimes the same.
The clean drinking water initiative argues that organic farming with mixed cultivation is more productive than farming with synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. Fans of synthetic pesticides argue that using pesticides is more productive. So which is correct? It probably depends on more than just whether pesticides are used or not.
The initiative to ban synthetic pesticides suggests there is potentially no difference. Current organic productivity is 20% lower than the same production with pesticides. It argues that food budgets could remain the same with a shift towards diets containing more plants in them. In addition, the innovation triggered would boost the economy, they say.
Arguments about supporting Swiss produce are confusing too. Supporters of pesticides say banning them will endanger Swiss produce and make the nation more dependant of food imports. However, those seeking to ban them argue that much of what appears to be Swiss produce isn’t. One of the two initiatives claims that there is a hidden foreign import dependency in the form of imported animal feed. It says that 50% of Swiss meat and 70% of eggs are raised on imported animal feed. They argue that the current model must change if Switzerland is to become less dependent on foreign imports.
In addition they point out that all these animal feed imports leave Switzerland with excessive animal poop, which is also damaging the environment, particularly some lakes and waterways. The best way to become more self sufficient, they argue, would be to shift from high consumption of environmentally inefficient foreign fed meat to more locally grow plants.