Switzerland to hold pesticide referendum

Swiss citizens will vote whether to ban artificial pesticides after a transition period of 10 years at a referendum later this month after small farmers back campaign.

Switzerland is set to vote on whether to ban artificial pesticides in agriculture, food production and the maintenance of public spaces like gardens and parks.

A referendum will take place on 13 June following a campaign ‘For a Switzerland without artificial pesticides’, run by an independent group of citizens, including scientists, doctors, and growers, to highlight the risk to human health, soil fertility and biodiversity.

It was backed recently by Switzerland’s association for small farmers, which said it would support the ban in the vote later this month. Around 15 per cent of Switzerland’s farms are already run organically, without the use of artificial pesticides, and organic food accounts for around 10 per cent of all sales, compared to two per cent in the UK.

The campaign gained the 100,00 signatures required to hold a referendum in 2018, at which point it was presented to the country’s Federal Council and travelled through the legislative process, before being scheduled for a referendum this summer.  

Switzerland farm
Switzerland is holding a referendum over whether to ban pesticides on farms and other green spaces. Image Dennis Jarvis.

If successful, a ban would be phased in over 10 years and would mean Switzerland would be the second country in the world to ban pesticides, after Bhutan. The ban would also prohibit imports of pesticides within foodstuffs, although it’s unclear how this would be implemented.

Switzerland is home to one of the world’s biggest pesticide manufacturers, Syngenta, which together with fellow agro chemical giant Bayer, and the Swiss Farmers’ Union is opposing the ban and running a counter campaign on social media to show the benefits of pesticides in tackling pests and disease.

“As we talk to farmers, young people and parents, in urban and rural areas, we find that our cause has great support: people are tired of the headlines about health and environmental disasters,” said Dominik Waser, a member of the Pesticides Initiative committee, who noted there has been a strong campaign in opposition.

“Many farmers who will vote yes to our initiative do not dare to publicly support the Pesticide Initiative due to the stormy climate,” Waser added.


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  1. Unfortunately it looks like this will all go pear-shaped. There is not enough support for the initiative and the campaign the opposition runs is full of lies and fearmongering (starvation in Switzerland, loss of jobs etc.). I know a handful of people in my village who will put in a big YES like me, the rest will most likely all vote against it. I live in a very rural area in the mountains and I just cannot believe that people nowadays are still so blind to well-known facts about the use of pesticides and its consequences for us humans as well as animals like insects, birds etc. I am deeply ashamed of our country, let me tell you.

    1. At least you are taking it to a vote – we are what we eat and drink so if we don’t make a stand now and make a change will there be a future for mankind!

  2. Some say that this would reduce food production by 20-30%, and it would have to be imported instead from countries with possibly lower environmental standards. How would counter this @SwissMiss? Is it fair to export one’s food production to another country in order to reduce pesticide use in your own?


    I’d also be interested to know what the lobbying has been like from the opposition, Bayer? Has it been vocal/underhand etc? They have precedence in this.



  3. I am constantly signing petitions and sometimes making donations to SumofUs etc to counter agrochem’s push. I am sure they will have been working social media etc.
    But could we please have an update on the outcome?

  4. And our 5 year old grandson in Sheffield is starting to notice dead bees lying around. This year we have seen no cinnabar moths despite leaving lots of ragwort plants, nor any gatekeeper butterflies. Both were in this garden last year. And nor have I seen a single bat this year:- there used to be a number. Only 5 out of about a dozen housemartins returned, the first year there has been such a drop. And we have added a sizeable pond and left water in lots of containers breeding midges etc to try to help.

  5. Some weeks later and as yet the media hasn’t even mentioned this vote – probably because they are owned and funded by those that would destroy the world in the name of more money – greed in fact! I wish somebody could explain to those who want to keep chemicals that when the world dies they will die with it!

    With that I hope the vote went well and pesticides will soon be banned in Switzerland – it is after all a move in the right direction.

    The Walrus

    1. Sadly the proposal to outlaw artificial pesticides was voted down by 61%, despite supporters of the ban
      pointing to worrying levels of pesticides in water, and damage to plants, animals and insects. Swiss farmers warned the proposals would put many of them out of business; highlighting the importance of support for farmers to transition from agriculture that is chemically dependent.

    2. How sad, but at least tis a start! Now in the manner of many good (?) politicians tis time to vote again – and again until the right answer comes along – 39% isn’t bad for a start!


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