Today, the popular initiative Sauberes Wasser für All (“For Clean Drinking Water and a Healthy Diet – Stop Subsidies allocated for Pesticides and Antibiotics for Prophylactic use”) was officially submitted to the Swiss Federal Chancellery in Bern. It proposes a total ban on synthetic agrichemicals such as pesticides in order to protect public health and the environment.
An apolitical citizens’ initiative, it obtained 110.000 validated signatures in a record time (9 months instead of 18, as required by the official procedure for popular initiatives). In Switzerland, 100.000 validated signatures are required for a popular initiative to be considered ‘successful’; once a successful popular initiative has been relayed to authorities, it is followed by a national referendum and can propose changes to the Swiss Federal Constitution. Although the initiative has been met with scorn by farmers’ unions and the industrial agricultural sector, it might well succeed - as the Swiss have a history of protecting what ends up on their plates through the electoral urn (such as the 2005 vote banning GMO crop cultivation).
As the text of the initiative states, since 1996 Swiss citizens have invested billions in direct payments to farmers in order to guarantee the production of natural and healthy and environmentally-safe food, as well as the respect for animal welfare in cattle production. However, as the Bertschy postulate showed in 2016, more than twenty years later ‘none of the environmental objectives for agriculture adopted by Swiss Federal Office for the Environmental and Office for Agriculture have been fully achieved’.
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