Switzerland is to vote on a ban on man-made pesticides

Switzerland could become the first European country to ban the use of artificial pesticides in a referendum on June 13, and supporters of the initiative hope it will lead to similar bans elsewhere. Globally, only Bhutan has completely banned the use of synthetic pesticides, including products from Swiss giants Syngenta and German agrochemical giants Bayer and BASF.

Supporters of the ban say man-made pesticides cause serious health problems and reduce biodiversity. Manufacturers say their pesticides have been rigorously tested and regulated and are safe to use, and without them, crop yields would fall sharply.

Another initiative to be voted on that day aims to improve the quality of Swiss drinking water and food by ending direct subsidies to farmers who use artificial pesticides and antibiotics in their livestock.

Switzerland has been divided by an unusually heated debate over these initiatives, and the vote looks close. A recent Tamedia poll showed that 48 percent of voters supported the drinking water initiative and 49 percent supported the pesticide ban.