Pests: home gardeners should be able to buy fewer pesticides

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Home gardeners should weed instead of spray: Politicians target home use pesticides – industry fights back

The range of pesticides for home gardeners should be reduced. The federal government wants to ban other products, but the industry is fighting back. The pressure is now coming from Parliament.

Some not only water their plants, but also use pesticides to protect them.

Walter Schwager/CRA

The Ice Saints are not living up to their name this year, on the contrary. The weather currently invites you to pick up the spade and tinker in the garden, sow radishes or plant tomatoes. Pests such as lice, snails or weeds can spoil the joy. Some amateur gardeners then resort to pesticides. And this is the subject of a political dispute.

It is estimated that 10% of the pesticides sold in Switzerland are used by private individuals. Too much, some would say. The federal government has reacted: Since 2021, certain products may no longer be sold to hobby gardeners. Further tightening is expected – and now the pressure is coming from Parliament.

Do you know what you are doing?

One of those who has pledged to tighten is States Green Councilor Maya Graf (BL). She criticizes the fact that too many pesticides are used in the gardens. “Today, amateur gardeners have access to sometimes very toxic active ingredients. Unlike the farmers, they have no training and there is also no control. “There is a lack of knowledge on how the funds are used correctly, for example what is the right amount.” Pesticides pollute the soil with toxic residues – in private and allotment gardens in all places, where children often play.”

Councilor to the States Maya Graf (Greens/BL)

Councilor to the States Maya Graf (Greens/BL)

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In fact, says the organic farmer, only organic produce should be used in home gardens. “As a result, they also make an important contribution to biodiversity.” With a motion, she now wants to ban all those pesticides that are toxic to humans, insects or aquatic life. It also requires funds to be sold in small amounts. From Graf’s perspective, this is a middle ground.

With her proposal, she found a narrow majority this week in the Economic Committee of the Council of States. The approval is remarkable, since the federal government has already planned a tightening. Last year, he proposed stricter criteria for approval for private use, and all herbicides – that is, weedkillers – should also be banned. The federal government found that home gardeners could weed or use leaves instead of chemical agents.

The Economic Commission recognizes that the federal government is making progress. But that was not enough, found a majority. First, not all demands are met. Secondly, there are fears that the Federal Council will back down and abandon the planned tightening. Because some points are “quite disputed”, specifies the report of the commission.

Already “very limited” palette

Industry in particular is resisting the restrictions. Pia Guggenbühl of the Association of Scientific Industries says the range of pesticides approved for private users is already “very limited”. The admissions office checks whether the products are suitable for private use.

Additionally, the industry has adapted its product line in the leisure sector over the past decade to reduce risk, says Guggenbühl. As an example, she cites weed killers: 90% of the commercial volume of herbicides for the non-professional sector today are products with biological active ingredients, acetic acid and pelargonic acid. “Products containing these active ingredients pose virtually no risk to humans, animals or the environment.”

Scienceindustries therefore considers a total ban on herbicides to be wrong. The association also opposes further tightening planned by the federal government. Regarding the argument that home gardeners know too little, he draws a comparison with products such as cleaning products in his response to the consultation: “No product is banned in this area on the grounds that users do not read the labels and does not follow the instructions for use”. .

“Too much paternalism”

State Councilor Hannes Germann (SVP/SH)

State Councilor Hannes Germann (SVP/SH)

KEYSTONE

The Council of States could already discuss Graf’s motion this summer. The resistance comes from the SVP States Councilor Hannes Germann: the motion goes too far for him. “It’s well intentioned, but it went over the mark,” he says. He sees a need for action, but the proposed ban is too comprehensive. “It’s too condescending. The majority of people use pesticides responsibly. In addition, the Federal Council has already become active.

However, it will probably take some time before the latter makes a final decision: as the responsible federal office explains, the subject should be presented to it together with other amendments to the ordinance which have just been discussed. The vegetables must therefore have been harvested long before the decision is made.

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