The Federal Constitution is amended as follows:
1 The Confederation endorses the supply of the population with food from diverse and sustainable local productions; therefore it takes effective measures, in particular against the loss of agricultural land, including the „Sömmerungsfläche“ (summer grazing areas) and to implement a quality strategy.
2 He ensures that the administrative effort in agriculture is low and the legal certainty and adequate investment security are guaranteed.
The Federal Council will apply for corresponding legislative provisions to the Federal Assembly no later than two years after the adoption of Article 104a by people and cantons.
Current Concerns: How is the counter- proposal of the Federal Council to the Initiative for Food Safety to be judged? Is this really a counter proposal?
National Councillor Rudolf Joder: The counter-proposal of the Federal Council to the Initiative for Food Safety is very dangerous, because it creates the basis that will make it possible to have access to all international markets beside that of the EU. That means that the Federal Council wants to reduce – there is no change of intention – the protection at the frontiers and to conclude if possible free trade treaties with a lot of states. It is not really a counter proposal to the Initiative for Food Safety.
What is the vision behind the Federal Council’s position?
For the Federal Council the food supply for the Swiss population is a specialized process based on division of labour where Swiss producers in agriculture play but a minor part. That is why the counter-proposal clearly needs to be combatted.
Are there any other aspects that pose a problem beside this neoliberal approach?
The second dangerous point of the Federal Council’s counter-proposal is the claim to make Swiss agriculture competitive so that it can survive on the international markets. This is an illusion and absolutely far removed from reality. We have got high costs in Switzerland, small-scale conditions, a difficult topography so that no farm product of Switzerland will be competitive at the international level.
Did this not succeed with our cheese – the Federal Council has seen a big potential there, haven’t they?
The best proof for the failure is the opening of the cheese market in 2007. This has led to the situation that Switzerland is no longer a “country of cheese”, and that the import of cheese increased in comparison to the export. And yet it is a premium product of Switzerland.
That is hard to believe. You have got to imagine that! Why does the Federal Council expect an improvement of food safety from export/import agreements although the dependence increases more than if the whole food were produced in our own country?
The Federal Council is blocking out the issue of dependence and wants to have access to all international markets, if possible; on behalf of the exporting economy so that Swiss national economy can grow. The Federal Council speaks of an annual growth of the national gross domestic product of 0.5 % in the context of opening the agricultural markets, and specifically of 2 billion Swiss Franks. This amount is smaller than the direct payments given to the farmers, today. So there cannot be any kind of growth.
What are the effects in the long run if we follow the Federal Council’s policy?
This would massively increase the dependence from abroad. The agriculture would continue to shrink massively which we have been seeing constantly for quite some time. Since 2000, there have been 15,000 farming enterprises with more than 40,000 employments that have disappeared. The inconsistency of Swiss agricultural politics is continued in the Federal Council’s counter-proposal. It would be far better and less expensive for the Federal Council to create a reasonable general framework for domestic agriculture and on the other hand to pay less direct payments in the form of contributions to the quality of landscape. This is the policy which would allow for the improvement of the domestic farmers’ performance as the population’s suppliers with good food of high quality, and which would allow saving public money in the form of direct payments.
Agriculture concerns the population above all as we are the ones who enjoy these agricultural products. In how far is it up to the citizen to raise his hand and say what he wants and what he doesn’t want?
That is a very important point. On the occasion of the vote the citizen will have the chance to speak out for the initiative for Food Safety resp. the counter-proposal. Our aim is to forge an alliance, because it does not only concern the future of agriculture. It is also about security of the supply to the population. It is about food safety for the consumer. It is about preventing our regulations for animal protection from being abolished and of preventing the import of foreign meat the production of which involves animal torture. It is about reducing environmental pollution which is created by long-distance transports of food that could equally be produced in our country. It is about sovereignty and independence of our country, thus it is about the foundations of Switzerland.
What is to be done?
Farmers must form an alliance with the interested parties. If they succeed, the concerns for healthy and independent farming will become capable of winning a majority. Together with the environmental associations, with the animal rights activists, with consumers, in short with all citizens of our country.
Must we not aim at creating awareness among citizens of the consequences, in case we can’t produce our own food anymore?
That’s right. Precisely for this reason, we have chosen the form of a popular initiative. In the run-up to the vote everyone will have to form an opinion and to think about it, what it means to him, to consume high-quality foods that have been produced here according to our legal standards. The price plays hardly a role in this, as the average Swiss household spends about 6.8 % of its budget on food today. This is a very small amount, and therefore the argument of the food price in Switzerland is not a real argument...
... especially as the quality greatly suffers at lower prices ...
Yes, that’s for sure. Food safety is affected here. For example: The use of hormones in animal feed is forbidden in Switzerland. However, it is allowed to import hormone-treated meat from abroad. Such dangers are increasing due to the international trade in meat. Even the Federal Office of Health realized this and warned of a further food crisis. Already today, 20 percent of the consumed meat is imported from abroad.
Besides the popular initiative you’ve launched as well a parliamentary initiative. What do you want to accomplish with it?
I’ve launched the parliamentary initiative, because the farmer’s association unfortunately didn’t accept a passage in the text of the food safety initiative aimed at restricting import of food products from abroad into Switzerland. I requested this in negotiations with the Farmer’s Association, with the intention to protect the producing locally agriculture and the local consumers. Because this provision has not been taken up in the food security initiative, I requested by means of the parliamentary initiative to include restrictions on imports of food products in the context of free trade agreements in the agriculture bill.
What would be the effect?
This will protect the domestically producing agriculture. The discussion on the parliamentary initiative is running. But if the counter proposal of the Federal Council is accepted, we have a clause in our constitution that the markets are to be opened up and the import restrictions reduced. In that case the doors will be opened, our domestic production will get under severe pressure and will probably no longer be able to keep up the high standard of quality.
Would this initiative also have an impact, if the counter proposal was accepted?
In case the parliamentary initiative is accepted and is taken into the agricultural law and if at the same time the proposal of the Federal Council is included in the constitution, we will have a situation that the constitution overrules the law and the agricultural markets will be opened with all desastrous consequences for our country and our agriculture.
So, one has to summon the utmost efforts to prevent further opening of the agricultural market with all political means.
In the association for producing agriculture are as well discussing to launch another people’s initiative to complement the food safety initiative so that rules on the import of food will be inshrined in the constitution. But it is also important to keep up the pressure against the Federal Council’s counter-proposal. Only this way will there be a chance to continue to having a sovereign agricultural production oriented at high food security. With an independent agricultural production, the elimination of farmers could be countered, and we could maintain a part of our cultural and national heritage.
Mr National Councillor Joder, thank you very much for the interview. •
(Interview Thomas Kaiser)
The Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation regarding Article 139, paragraph 5 of the Federal Constitution, after inspecting the Popular Initiative “For food security” filed on 8 July 2014, and after having considered the message of the Federal Council ..., decrees:
I The Federal Constitution is amended as follows:
Art. 102a Food security
To ensure the supply of the population with food the federal government constitutes frameworks that support sustainability and are good for:
a. the securing of the bases for agricultural production, especially of cultivated land,
b. a locally adapted and resource-efficient production of foodstuffs;
c. a competitive agriculture and food industry;
d. the access to international agricultural market,.
e. a resource-friendly consumption of food.
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