Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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Swiss reject strict environmental laws in agriculture in referendum

In the referendum in Switzerland, more than 60% of Swiss voters rejected three sweeping environmental and climate proposals. Two nearly identical referendums against chemical pesticides in agriculture were rejected, and a third proposal for less air pollution also failed to win a majority.

After months of heated campaigns, it was a clear “no” on Sunday to proposals that could have made Switzerland a pioneer in organic farming. Switzerland could have become the first European country to ban the use of artificial herbicides and fungicides.

The results show large differences between urban and rural areas. In some major cities, more than half were in favor of the three now rejected Climate Plans, while the Swiss government had issued a negative advice. The Swiss chemical industry had also campaigned extensively against the proposals in recent weeks.

This cast a distrustful vote against 40 percent of the electorate. Those Swiss believe that the agricultural policy can only be helped with radical recipes. This not insignificant minority believes that no ecological agricultural policy can be made with the current power of the farmers' association.

Urs Schneider, deputy director of the Swiss Farmers' Union, said the poll results were a "huge relief" for farmers who had argued that pesticide use would lead to smaller crops and higher food prices.

In recent weeks, the campaign has been marked by emotional arguments between opposing philosophies, especially in rural areas. The campaigns also revealed a lack of understanding of how the Swiss agricultural sector works.

Despite the rejection of the three Climate Plans, campaigners tried to claim a moral victory on Sunday by pointing out that the danger posed by pesticides and their threat to health have finally become the subject of discussion, and are now not off the table.

Campaigners had argued that agriculture bore "significant" responsibility for traces of pesticides in Switzerland's groundwater and rivers, as well as for declining biodiversity. They had also argued that government policies were not doing enough to address the problems.

"It is a defeat for health and for nature," says Adèle Thorens of the Greens. She said it is necessary to continue the dialogue between politics, farmers and science in the future.

Without the now also rejected new CO2 law, according to the Swiss Federal Environment Agency, it is impossible to reduce emissions by 37.5 percent by 2030, as planned, but at most by 23 percent. This is also because some climate measures are now even completely omitted. It is unclear what is happening now with limiting chemical pesticides and air pollution.

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