On 23 September, Swiss citizens will be asked to vote for or against the Fair-Food Initiative project which was put for discussion by the national Green Party.
The initiative aims at reinforcing the quality of food items that come into Switzerland in terms of compliance with specific environmental criteria as well as animal-friendly agriculture and fair working conditions on the production chain. This would apply not only to Swiss-produced food but also whatever that would cross the border into the country.
One section of the plan also emphasizes the benefits of the local and regional food industry, and measures and campaigns are expected to be raised to reduce food waste in Switzerland (according to the newspaper Blick, one third of all foods in the country - 2 million tons! - ends up in waste).
To proceed, the federal government would be able to use new tools to protect the Swiss food industry, including the possibility to implement new regulations and tariffs regarding the quality of products and processes, or to control imports through tariffs and quotas to the food industry stakeholders.
At first sight this seems to be a pretty good initiative to vote for, with the sustainability and quality of food products at the centre of the public debate (click here if you want to read - in German - the arguments of the Greens in favour of the project).
However many voices have been raised against the Initiative ( SVP, FDP, CVP, BDP, GLP).
The "Wirtschaftsdachverband Economiesuisse" (the national federation representing "the interests of the competitive, internationally networked and responsible Swiss business community") believes for instance that this initiative will be a threat to the existing trade agreements and will reduce the choice consumers will have with regard to food consumption.
Some could argue for instance that the Swiss food market, which is generally already protective towards its local producers and suppliers, will legitimately be further closed to international (meaning, non- Swiss) input.
A constitutional article was already voted for by the Swiss people in September 2017 with a great 79%, leading to a stronger protection of Swiss agricultural land and practices and a certain alignment of food production with the market needs. I would be surprised if the vote this year would go the other direction.
To be continued and update to be found here!
Click here to read more about the Fair-Food Initiative (in German).