Swiss citizens are due to vote in a referendum which could see their country become only the second in the world to ban synthetic pesticides. One initiative proposes to end subsidies to farmers who use such pesticides, while another one would ban them altogether within 10 years. Supporters point to worrying levels of pesticides in water, and damage to plants, animals and insects.
Pesticides are chemical or biological agents used to control pests. Voting is also taking place on Sunday on other initiatives: anti-terrorism legislation, a new tax on fossil fuels and emergency Covid-19 funding. Switzerland’s system of direct democracy means all major decisions in the Alpine nation are taken at the ballot box. Campaigners simply have to gather 100,000 signatures to ensure a nationwide vote.
If approved, the pesticide initiatives would go much further than the handful of towns and regions around the world that have already banned all synthetic pesticides.
It would also be of greater global significance than the ban imposed by Bhutan in 2013, as Switzerland is the home of the world’s biggest pesticide manufacturer, Syngenta.