Switzerland to vote on synthetic pesticides ban

Switzerland could become the first European country to ban artificial pesticides.

On June 13th a referendum will take place, and backers hope it will trigger similar moves elsewhere.

They want the country to ban the use of products made by agro-chemical giants such as Swiss firm Syngenta and Germany's Bayer and BASF.

Campaigners say artificial products cause serious health problems and reduce biodiversity.

But manufacturers insist their pesticides are rigorously regulated and that crop yields would slump without them.

Another vote on the same day aims to improve the quality of Switzerland's drinking water and food.

It would stop direct subsidies to farmers who use artificial pesticides and antibiotics in livestock.

If adopted, the proposals give farmers up to 10 years to make the transition.

And would allow Switzerland to become a leader in organic food and drink production.

Roland Lenz is a Swiss wine maker:

"Our drink water will sometime in the future, 20 or 30 years, be pure again, our soil would be fertile again and we would have less dependence on foreign countries".

The clean water initiative also wants farmers to stop using imported animal feed, and restrict the numbers of cows, pigs and chickens in Switzerland.

The Swiss Farmers Union says many of its members feel their way of life is under siege.

Dominic Haab, runs a dairy farm outside Zurich:

"Our production will go rapidly down, we won't have any Swiss chicken meat, we won't have any Swiss pig meat and the result would be there will be much more import, much more food would come from outside countries into Switzerland."

The country has been divided by the unusually bitter debate over the initiatives.

And according to recent polls, the votes look set to be close.

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