Switzerland Votes On Pesticides Ban

 

 

Switzerland votes Sunday on proposals to ban synthetic pesticides following a campaign that has shattered the idyllic image of peaceful Swiss Alpine pastures by sharply dividing opinion.

The Swiss are also voting on a series of hot topics, including anti-terror measures and Covid-19 laws.

Polling stations close at 1000 GMT, with most people having voted by post. Results will be known before the end of the day.

Voters must decide whether they approve a Covid-19 law that extends government powers to fight the pandemic and mitigate its consequences on society and the economy.

But the two anti-pesticide proposals have triggered the most noise, in an electoral campaign marked by fiery debates between farmers.

The campaign boiled over in the western Vaud region when arsonists torched a trailer in a field displaying banners calling for a “No” vote, infuriating farmers.

Meanwhile farmers in the “Yes” campaign say they have been the victims of insults, threats and intimidation.

The first popular initiative, entitled “For a Switzerland free from synthetic pesticides”, calls for a domestic ban within 10 years, while imported foodstuffs produced using such pesticides would also be outlawed.

Under the second, “For clean drinking water and healthy food”, only farms that do not use pesticides and use antibiotics only to treat sick animals would be eligible for government subsidies.

The amount of liquid manure being used on fields, and thereby potentially entering the water system, would also be limited.

Environmentalists and the political left back both initiatives.

The Swiss government wants a double “No” vote, arguing the proposals would undermine national food sovereignty.

Switzerland is also home to Syngenta, one of the largest manufacturers of plant protection products, which was bought by the Chinese giant ChemChina in 2017.

Though urban voters are largely in favour, and rural voters seem set to vote “No”, polls indicate that both proposals are likely to be rejected.

– Tight fight on CO2 –

Under Switzerland’s direct democracy system, referendums and popular votes occur every few months at national, regional and local levels.

Any idea from the public can be put to a national vote as long as it gathers 100,000 signatures from the 8.6 million population.

Meanwhile, 50,000 signatures are needed to trigger a referendum on new laws agreed by parliament.

Environmental protection is also at stake in a referendum on new carbon dioxide laws.

The law would use tax policy to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 — including financial incentives to install charging points for electric vehicles and to market vehicles that consume less fuel.

It would also increase the tax on fuel oil and natural gas, as well as introduce a tax on outbound flight tickets.

Opponents say the measures will be expensive and mainly affect people on low and middle incomes.

Polls suggest the outcome hangs in the balance.

– Terror and human rights –

A clear majority, however, is expected to back extending police powers to combat terrorism, despite warnings from the United Nations and Amnesty International.

The law allows the police to take preventative action more easily when faced with a “potential terrorist”.

If police believe that someone over the age of 12 is contemplating violent actions, the law allows them to conduct greater surveillance, limit their movements and oblige them to face questioning.

And with a court order, they can also place anyone over the age of 15 under house arrest for up to nine months.

Left-wing opponents of the law believe it endangers Switzerland’s human rights heritage.

The country has so far been spared the large-scale attacks seen in European neighbours, but the authorities nonetheless insist the threat level is high.

The referendum on Covid-19 laws seems set to pass comfortably.

Any emergency measures introduced by the government — as with its moves to combat the pandemic — are time-limited and therefore need firming up if they are to continue.

The laws also regulate financial aid granted to individuals and businesses, including compensation for loss of income, and support for cultural organisations.

Paris, Four Other French Cities Ban Use Of Pesticides

This picture taken on September 09, 2019, shows a bottle of weedkilling containing glyphosate in Lille, northern France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP

 

Paris and four other French cities on Thursday banned the use of synthetic pesticides within their boundaries, as an anti-chemicals movement that began in the countryside gains momentum.

Lille in the north, Nantes in the west, Grenoble in the southeast and the central city of Clermont-Ferrand joined Paris in implementing the ban, citing the need to safeguard biodiversity and public health.

The move is mainly symbolic given that the 2017 law already bans the use of synthetic pesticides in public parks and spaces.

And since January, home gardeners countrywide have also been banned from using synthetic pesticides. They may use only those made with natural ingredients.

READ ALSO: WHO Urges World Leaders To Protect Health From Climate Change

The few urban areas not included by the bans include green spaces managed by private property owners, such as in apartment blocks, or by companies such as state rail operator SNCF which use the controversial weedkiller glyphosate on train tracks.

Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne slammed Thursday’s announcement by the five cities — all of which are run by left-wing or Green opposition parties — as a “publicity stunt”.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government has proposed banning the use of pesticides to within 5-10 metres (15-35 feet) of residential areas — a proposal slammed by environmentalists as not going far enough.

The head of the Greens group in Lille city council, Stephane Baly, said the cities’ aim was “to make the government cave in”.

The current bans to not cover some 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of land in Paris, according to Penelope Komites, an MP of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s Socialist Party.

“We have to protect our city’s inhabitants,” she said.

France growing green

Dozens of small towns and villages, where houses abut fields, have already issued decrees cracking down on the use of chemical sprays.

The movement began in earnest in May 18 in the Brittany village of Langouet where a mayor banned the use of pesticides within 150 metres of a home or business.

A court later invalidated the ban, ruling that only the state has the power to ban pesticides for public health reasons.

But Mayor Daniel Cueff had by then already won legions of admirers, with villages and towns, from the Normandy town of Val-de-Reuil to the wealthy Paris suburb of Sceaux, following suit.

The bans reflect the growing concern among French citizens, particularly in rural areas, over the continued use of the weedkilling chemical glyphosate, found in herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup.

France is one of the EU’s heaviest users of the herbicide, which is widely used by farmers to spray crops even though the World Health Organization has described it as “probably carcinogenic”, a finding disputed by Monsanto.

The impact of chemical pollution has slowly risen up the political agenda in France as voters grow increasingly concerned about environmental degradation and climate change.

The issue is expected to be among voters’ top priorities when they go to the polls in local elections next year.

Anambra Launches 2016 Dry Season Farming

Obiano Meets Industrialists, Seeks Solution To RecessionAnambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, has flagged off the 2016 ‘dry season farming and agric show’ in Awka, the Anambra state capital.

According to the governor, he is advocating for an all season farming practice, as he believes that as climate is changing, food production and agricultural processes must also change.

The programme was attended by over 5,000 farmers and representatives of various cooperative groups from the 21 local government areas of the state, gathered to be part of the new initiative.

Re-enforcing the new farming initiative, the governor announced the introduction of practices and technology that would help reduce food losses through better technology for harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure and market mechanism, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

The flag off which took place at the ABS Headquarters, Awka field, featured distribution of farm inputs, fertilizers, pesticides, improved and high yielding seedlings, as well as handover of motorcycles to deserving farmers for farm to farm movement.

With a strong resolve to ensure food security and sufficiency, Governor Obiano has made agriculture the number one pillar of his administrative blueprint.

Also, in the budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year, a budget of 5.4 Billion Naira has been earmarked for agriculture alone, in which the state aims at being one of the top three producers of rice, maize and cassava.

With the challenges of climate change and the growing population however, there is need for agriculture and food system to find means of adapting to the adverse effects of climate change and becoming more resilient, productive and sustainable.

It is for this reason that thousands of farmers and cooperative groups gathered to re-dedicate themselves to the course of agricultural development.

The arrival of the governor charged up the arena where various food crops were on display for the agricultural exhibition.

He then moved round to inspect the crop harvest of 2016 as well as felicitate with the farmers.

While addressing the farmers, Obiano commend them for their steadfastness in the trending occupation and assured them that the state would support them with every necessary equipment needed.

He ended the event by distributing various farm inputs such as certified rice seeds, high variety vitamins, a termite free cassava stems and agricultural facilitating equipment like pesticides, irrigation equipment, tractors and motorcycles.

Women cooperatives, on the other hand, presented a gift to the governor and commended him for the support he has been giving them especially in the area of making available off takers who buy off their farm produce upon harvest.

The representative of the Minister Of Agriculture, Mr Albert Odukwe, stated that the governor’s resolve to embark on all year round farming is a demonstration of his commitment to agriculture as a serious business which all must embrace.

The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mechanization, Processing and Export, Mr Afam Mbanefo, also announced the agricultural success of the outgoing year.

Senate Tasks Agricultural Agencies On Standardization Of Products

SenateThe Nigerian Senate has tasked food and agricultural agencies in the country to embark on the standardization of food crops that have failed to meet export standards.

The Senate Deputy Whip, Francis Alimikhena, at Thursday’s legislative proceedings drew the attention of the Senate to the ban on some of Nigeria’s agricultural products by the European Union (EU).

The products banned by the EU till June 2016 are beans, sesame seeds, dried fish, dried meat, peanut chips and palm oil.

According to the Deputy Chief Whip, the ban was because the products contains high level of pesticides which is harmful when consumed.

He said: “In 2013, 24 agro-products of Nigerian origin exported‎ to the UK were rejected, while the figure increased to 42 in 2014.”

Mr Alimmikhena added that the beans were found to contain between 0.03mg kilograms to 4.6mg /kg of dichlorvos (pesticides) contrary to acceptable limits.

The ban on the agricultural exports by the EU suggests that Nigeria’s unfavourable balance of trade position with European countries will worsen, as Nigeria would be exporting fewer agricultural products.

Lawmakers also blamed food and agricultural agencies in Nigeria for failing to properly standardize food crops.

The Senate has however directed the National Agency for Food and Drug Administeration and Control (NAFDAC), the Ministry of Health and the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to be alive in its regulatory duties over food and agricultural products.