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Anti-pesticide farm initiative passes signature stage in Switzerland

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Staff Writer | January 22, 2018
Campaigners have handed in 114,420 signatures by Swiss citizens in favour of the “Clean Drinking Water and Healthy Food" initiative, which aims to cut direct subsidies to farmers who use pesticides or antibiotics.
Clean Drinking Water
Europe   Clean Drinking Water and Healthy Food
The text of the initiative states that the federal authorities must ensure that agriculture contributes to the security of the population's supply of safe food and clean drinking water.

Under current policy, Swiss farmers receive CHF2.8 billion ($2.9 billion) in subsidies. Most farms must meet minimum standards known as "required ecological services," with production that encourages biodiversity, respectful animal-rearing, soil rotation, and other measures.

The initiative, however, calls for pesticide-free agricultural production, and requires that livestock be given feed produced on the farm.

Farmers using antibiotics on their animals as a preventive measure or regularly in their production processes would lose subsidies, the campaigners argue. Agricultural research, training and investment would also depend on these criteria.

The campaigners, including Greenpeace Switzerland, Birdlife Switzerland, the Swiss Fishing Federation, say 2,000 tonnes of pesticides are used every year nationwide, of which 85-90% on farms, and 38 tonnes of antibiotics are given to cattle to stop them falling ill.

They argue that the intensive use of pesticides and antibiotics on farms is contaminating rivers, streams, and groundwater, and is destroying biodiversity.

A poll last year found that 65% of Swiss people want local farmers to use fewer pesticides on their fields.