The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Poor marks for the Plant Protection Products Ordinance

The total revision of the Plant Protection Products Ordinance receives poor marks in the consultation process. Farmers and the SVP are calling for the automatic implementation of EU approvals. Environmental protection and the Greens want to maintain Swiss standards and insist on the Federal Council's pesticide reduction path.

With the total revision, the Federal Council wants to optimize the approval of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and bring them into line with the EU. The ordinance also stipulates the involvement of environmental organizations in the approval process.

In principle, the bill aims to approve active ingredients of plant protection products if they are approved in the EU. Exceptions remain possible. The Federal Council also wants to cover the costs of the approval procedure. Currently, only two percent are covered; the new plan is to cover 40 percent.

Goal thwarted

The responses to the consultation are almost unanimously negative. The SVP opposes the bill. It would virtually thwart the goal of faster approval of plant protection products in Switzerland. For example, a product approved in an EU country with a comparable agricultural sector should also be approved in Switzerland.

However, this is precisely what the options granted to the administration for stricter regulations and the right of appeal for environmental organizations would prevent. An automatic adoption of EU approvals would be more expedient, writes the party. The FDP has not commented. No statement could be found on the SP website either until Easter.

The Center welcomes the total revision with reservations. The recognition of EU authorizations would clear up the backlog of authorizations for plant protection products in Switzerland. However, the party is concerned that a Swiss authorization requirement should remain in place. Like the SVP, the Center Party and the Farmers' Association also reject an increase in fees.

Federal Council breaking its word

The Greens reject the revision "in its entirety". With the new approval procedure, the lowest environmental standard with the greatest health risk would be adopted by every EU country equivalent to Switzerland. The level of protection would even be lower than that of the EU as a whole. Furthermore, Parliament and the Federal Council would be breaking their word in the run-up to the pesticide and drinking water initiatives. At that time, they promised an ambitious pesticide reduction pathway. With this proposal, the opposite is happening.

The Green Liberal Party welcomes the total revision. However, the damage caused by the high pesticide load is undisputed, it writes, referring to the extinction of species and water pollution. Lowering the level of protection is therefore out of the question. The GLP also refers to initiatives and promises in connection with the initiatives.

The environmental alliance of Greenpeace, Pro Natura, VCS, WWF, Birdlife and the Energy Foundation is demanding that the Swiss environmental protection standard be maintained. This includes independent authorization. As a result of the innovation, 50 problematic active substances - including ten very dangerous ones - could be approved without testing. The beekeeping association Apisuisse reminds us of the threat to pollinating insects.

Complainants should pay

The Swiss Farmers' Union has already rung the alarm bell several times because of what it sees as a lack of pesticides. It is calling for a comprehensive revision of the bill. The total revision must be embedded in an agricultural and food strategy. EU authorizations must be adopted automatically and within the EU's binding deadlines. And anyone who lodges a complaint must bear the costs.

The Swiss-Food association regrets that fewer and fewer active substances are available to agriculture. As Switzerland follows the EU in banning plant protection products, it should also adopt EU approvals in return.

The business umbrella organization Economiesuisse is calling for the bill to be suspended. It refers to a parliamentary initiative for modern plant protection and a motion for the recognition of EU approvals, which were approved by the National Council and Council of States.

©Keystone/SDA

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