Pesticides are a hot political topic in Switzerland. On 13 June 2021, there are two votes centred on tightly restricting their use. This week Switzerland’s small farmers announced their support for a nationwide ban on synthetic pesticide use.
Synthetic pesticides include agrochemicals containing compounds that do not occur in nature. The ban would be applied to farmers, companies, public entities and individuals and would be phased in over a 10 year period.
Switzerland’s association of small farmers, which represents around 8,000 farmers, says that it is possible to farm profitably without pesticides in a way that protects public health and the environment.
The text of the initiative allows 10 years for the farming sector to switch away from synthetic pesticides, enough time to avoid some farmers getting caught short, according to Regina Fuhrer-Wyss, the president of the small farmers association.
According to supporters of the plan, widespread use of pesticides is reducing soil fertility, taking a toll on biodiversity and damaging human health. Soil is a complex living organism rich in bacteria and other microorganisms that can be harmed by pesticides.
In addition, as the science around the importance of gut bacteria progresses, there is increasing evidence that pesticides damage the human gut microbiome, leading to a wide range of health problems, such as obesity and insulin resistance. One study suggests that 54% of core gut bacterial species are potentially sensitive to glyphosate. Another reveals a strong correlation between rising rates of celiac disease and glyphosate use.