The Federal Council bans the export of five pesticides banned in Switzerland

Today, the Federal Council announced a ban on the export of five pesticides that are banned in Switzerland due to the proven risks they present. Public Eye welcomes this important decision in favour of the protection of people and the environment against dangerous chemicals, and encourages the Federal Council to continue down this path.

This important Federal Council decision follows Public Eye’s investigations into and reports on the export of pesticides that are banned in Switzerland yet produced here, and the disastrous impact these pesticides have on developing and emerging countries. Under the Federal Council’s ruling, from 2021 onwards the export of highly dangerous pesticides like Paraquat, which has been banned in Switzerland since 1989, will be prohibited. As the country that is home to the number one pesticide company in the world, Syngenta, Switzerland is assuming its responsibilities and sending a strong signal on finally putting an end to the policy of ‘double standards’ which is particularly harmful to countries with weaker regulatory systems. At the same time, Switzerland is sending a clear message to the industry: it must withdraw from the market the most toxic pesticides with proven impacts on human health and the environment.

This new regulation applies only to Atrazine, Diafenthiuron, Methidathion, Paraquat and Profenofos – five banned pesticides that have been exported from Switzerland in recent years. It will therefore still be possible to export numerous other banned pesticides. The Federal Council is introducing an authorisation regime requiring importer countries to provide explicit prior approval for approximately 100 substances, thereby recognising the high danger they present. However, Switzerland should go further and should ban the export of all pesticides that are banned on its soil for reasons of protecting health or the environment. France has already made progress in this regard and has announced such a ban from 2022. In addition, today the European Commission announced that it wants to ensure that in line with its international engagements «hazardous chemicals banned in the European Union are not produced for export».

The ban on exporting banned pesticides is an important first step, but it must be complemented by other measures – because only a small proportion of dangerous pesticides banned in our country are currently produced in and exported from Switzerland. The Basel-based giant Syngenta produces the vast majority of its highly dangerous pesticides in other countries, like the United Kingdom, China or the United States – and earns billions selling those chemicals every year.

On 29 November, the swiss population will vote on the Responsible Business Initiative that would oblige companies to respect human rights and the environment in their activities abroad. Syngenta would have to take seriously the risks linked to the use of its dangerous pesticides in other countries – including in cases of pesticides that are not produced in Switzerland. Syngenta would no longer be able to turn a blind eye to the health and environmental impacts of its activities.

For further information:

Carla Hoinkes, agriculture and biodiversity expert, 076 480 54 85, carla.hoinkes@publiceye.ch