Pesticides: So many farmers are polluting our water 2

Pesticides: So many farmers are polluting our water

In a monstrous debate, parliamentarians talked about pesticides in agriculture yesterday. Numbers indicate that the problem is acute.

CVP National Advisor Kathy Riklin (66) has become clear. "We need action!" She said. Reducing biodiversity and reducing groundwater quality have clearly shown that something has to be done urgently against the pesticide problem in Switzerland.

A woman from Zurich did not hesitate to call the guilty ones: peasants. Riklin gives them information from the Federal Office of the Environment. Accordingly, the concentrations of active substances of pesticides and their degradation products in groundwater at each fifth measurement point is above 0.1 micrograms per liter – the legal limit for pesticide active substances (see map). Disintegration products are probably the toxic residues of these products. In regions with many economies, for example in Central Plateau, the value is even exceeded in 70 percent of cases.

The debate lasted for nine hours

It was one of many numbers flying around the ears of national councils in the last days. The discussion on drinking water and pesticides at the National Council lasted for nine hours. In the end, most rejected the referendum. And the indirect counter-argument, which was a compromise for debate, was lost.

At urn, templates have a fair chance, especially the drinking water initiative (see text box). Although water quality in Switzerland is still high. But drinking water suppliers warn that it's harder to provide clean drinking water. "Pesticide contamination is becoming a problem in more and more regions," says André Olschewski, head of department at Verein der Gas und Wasserversorger (SVGW). Due to excess pesticide concentrations, it would sometimes be necessary to close the drinking water tanks.

Pesticides can be carcinogenic

How many remains of groundwater pesticides are dangerous to humans, experts say. One thing is clear: 80 percent of our drinking water is groundwater. It often contains a whole cocktail of pesticides whose effects are well known but not explored in combination.

And what is known, can not be calm: glyphosate, the most commonly used pesticide, the international cancer research agency as "possible carcinogen". The Federation calms down, the dose that one actually takes for himself is to be taken into account.

It is also suspected that the most commonly used fungicide of chlorothalonil is cancer. The EU has recently adopted a ban that Switzerland wants to follow.

Just over a week ago, the Federal Agricultural Office abolished approvals for 26 plant protection products containing chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl active substances. Over the last few years, up to 15 tons of such pesticides have been scattered in Swiss fields per year. It has now been established that medicines can cause brain damage in infants and embryos.

The farmer's association rejoices – still

In the light of these findings, even the Drinking Water Association – not a radical environmental NGO – is considering support for pesticide initiatives. To be sure, they actually go too far for him. But if the parliament does not present an antipollution that farmers commit to reducing pesticides, they are the only political options that bring concrete improvements to drinking water, says Olschewski.

This would make true what has been warned several times in the debate: if initiatives come to people without a moderate counter-argument, their chances of success increase.

Though farmers continue to argue. "It was a very intense discussion," says farmers' president Markus Ritter (52, CVP). The result is the way he wanted it. Farmers also support the goal, and thus the Federal Council's action plan for further pollution reduction with pesticides, he assures him. The evidence had to be debited. That could be revenge.

That's what the initiatives want

In addition to the Drinking Water Initiative and pesticides, there are two templates that are very similar to the topic. That is why they were treated together in Parliament and will be put to the vote on the same day next year.

Behind the Drinking Water Initiative is a fitness trainer and mother Franziska Herren (52). She only wants farmers to receive direct payments that do not use pesticides. In addition, animals must provide farm-owned food and should not prophylactically use antibiotics. The pesticide initiative, which has a committee of citizens from western Switzerland, is even more extreme and wants a complete ban on synthetic pesticides. It should also apply to imports.

The Federal Council dismisses both initiatives and did not want to formulate a counter-argument. He warns that initiatives might be counterproductive – for example, because farmers leave the system of direct payments and then use more instead of less pesticides.