Op Ed: The Swiss will vote on a total ban on pesticides


In what could be a great global precedent, Switzerland will vote on a total ban on pesticides. The fantastic territory of great agriculture, technologically outdated, may not be the same again.

Deutsches Welle has a somewhat long but very informative article detailing the ramifications of the pesticide industry. The global problems are really vast and well known.

(Note: I have a problem with the DW article: organic farming no longer consumes land. Structured organic farming, such as permaculture, creating “food forests”, actually produces more organic food in smaller areas.)

The problems, however, have been very difficult and incomprehensibly stupidly managed:

  • The pesticide industry has shown no interest in public calls for safer pesticides and all pesticide-related environmental issues. Pesticide-related health problems are usually ignored.
  • Governments around the world have been equally ignorant and abysmally slow in responding to public demands for better options. Political donations, especially in the US, are the main factors in this suicidal apathy.
  • Producers have been largely ignored, except, of course, in The history of Monsanto for decades of litigation and endless controversy over glyphosate.
  • Pollinating insects have fallen drastically for years almost entirely due to pesticides. The decline is threatening the entire food chain, particularly the huge pollination-dependent monocultures. This could easily be a catastrophe for the entire food industry.

The old forms of mass pest control have long been overtaken by a better economy and better, cheaper and much safer methods. This is Big Ag in its most dinosaur-like shape. Instead of providing safer and cheaper pest control methods, complex and expensive antiques such as glyphosate are still on the market.

The market needs to adapt and it’s fast. Cheaper pest control in this case means better and much safer. Large pest control manufacturers could switch to these products without even re-equipping themselves. The cost of changes in production would be minimal and real savings in production would occur.

The parallel horror story

Climate problems and water supplies are driving a universal drive toward a better economy in food production. (The ongoing mega drought of nearly a decade in the United States is an example.) These situations are becoming increasingly dangerous each year. Food production in traditional areas is expected to suffer severely. It may be necessary to move the growth zones to more temperate zones in some scenarios.

Adapting food production to change must include more economical, more efficient and pest management. There is no option. The sector needs to have adequate support and more flexible options. Now is the time to change the structure of food production and focus on high quality efficiencies, not a little money here or there.

This vote in Switzerland is about the future of world agriculture in many ways.

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