Blir Sveits det første landet som forbyr alle sprøytemidler?

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"In the run-up to a June 13 referendum in which voters will decide whether to support two measures that crack down on pesticide use in Switzerland, leading supporters of the two proposals have been on the receiving end of not just an avalanche of abuse, but even death threats.

As a result, Céline Vara, a lawyer and Green Party politician who helped initiate the proposal for a ban on synthetic pesticides, is now under police protection. Franziska Herren , who initiated a clean drinking water initiative, which, if passed, would stop farmers who use pesticides from claiming state subsidies, has also received death threats.

So too has organic farmer and Green politician Kilian Baumann , who backs both initiatives. Baumann has cancelled all his public appearances until after the referendum because he says the threats against him and his family have reached such frightening proportions that he has “a bad feeling when I leave my family and farm behind in the evening”.

This prompted Fabien Fivaz, a member of the Swiss Parliament, to warn that what was happening was “serious for our democracy”.

Edward Mitchell, a professor in the Laboratory of Soil Biodiversity at the University of Neuchâtel, added that he knew of two other opponents of pesticides that had also received death threats, bringing the total to five.

Climate of fear.

The death threats form part of a wider campaign of intimidation by opponents of the citizens’ initiatives. Farmers and beekeepers who support a yes vote have complained of a climate of fear, aimed at stopping them expressing their views for fear of retaliation.

The pro-pesticides lobby has flooded the country with posters attacking the measures and there are multiple complaints of banners and posters put up in response being torn down. A number of beekeepers also say they have been threatened with expulsion from farms and even with harm to their bees if they try to display their preference for a yes vote.

Small farmers are facing a similar campaign of coercion with few daring to speak out, according to Edward Mitchell, “Peasants supporting our initiative face pressure, threats, verbal and physical attacks, destruction etc. It hurts to see these brave people attacked to the point of not daring to speak out. We are close to omertà!”

An organic farmer who works in a small French-speaking village on the Swiss Plateau did have the courage to speak to the news agency SwissInfo about what was going on, but he insisted on remaining anonymous:

“My children live in fear because they have suffered attacks and insults on social media for weeks. They have forbidden me to put up a banner in favour of the anti-pesticide initiatives on my farm out of fear of reprisals. Personally, I don’t mind being insulted all day by my colleagues – I have thick skin. But I want to protect my family.”

David versus Goliath.

All this might come as a shock to anyone familiar with Orson Welles’ portrayal of Switzerland as a country devoted to democracy, peace and brotherly love, or Robert de Niro’s complaint that it’s a country without drama, conflict or jeopardy.

After all, Switzerland already has a moratorium on GMOs in farming that has been in place since Swiss voters first opted for it back in 2005. It was accepted by every single Swiss state (canton), even the most conservative ones. And although the original ban was set only to last five years, the Swiss parliament has since extended it repeatedly by popular demand, with neither farmers or consumers showing any interest in lifting it.

But the proposals to crackdown on pesticides faced serious pushback right from when they were first mooted in 2016. Although one in six Swiss farms already has organic certification and the number is growing, Switzerland is also home to the Basel-based mega corporation Syngenta, now owned by ChemChina. In fact, Swiss agrochemical businesses generate nearly $50 billion in annual sales worldwide. And global agrochemical firms are understandably keen not just to keep Switzerland as a market for their products but to avoid it setting an example to the rest of the world by becoming the first country to ban ALL pesticides.

The opposition of these corporate giants, together with Switzerland’s biggest farmers’ association, has meant the citizen committees that back the proposals have found themselves up against far larger forces".

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