Markus Ritter (CVP, SG – Christian Peoples Party, Canton of St. Gallen): Today we are discussing an initiative that takes up an ethically very important problem and by that an issue that will be on our mind worldwide in the coming decades, namely the question: How can people survive having only limited resources at their disposal and having to stockpile by buying on the world market, especially during times of food shortage? Every year, the world population is growing by about 80 million people; which is about the size of Germany‘s population. In 2050, there will be 10 billion people on the earth, to be nourished according to the calculations of the UN and the FAO. Even today, 800 million people are undernourished and go to bed hungry every night. […]
The group issuing the initiative has made very serious thought about the problem of feeding the world’s population. They want to ease the need and ensure access to sufficient food for all at affordable prices.
The importance of this concern is also seen by the parliamentary group of CVP/EVP (Protestant People’s Party). In the coming years and decades the world community will have to shoulder great humanitarian responsibility. Today, our question is whether initiative at hand provides appropriate means to address these challenges. Two aspects force us to answer this question with a “No”: 1. This initiative would provide the right remedy to the problem, if it would be possible to tackle the problem globally across country-borders, thus effectively enforcing new standards against speculation. If limited to Switzerland, such regulations would have no effect because the affected companies are mobile and can move its location easily. 2. There are diverging opinions about speculation pushing prices in certain areas. The opponents of the initiative refer to reports and assessments showing that speculation has only positive effects. This matter may have to be assessed in more depth on an international level.
Surely some degree of stockpiling and of investments in storehouses are important to buffer for crop failures. This area of investment is good and important. But there is a second area, namely the excessive speculation. Nobody under the sun can tell us that hedge funds investing in commodities, do not want to make money. I believe this is in the nature of things.
It must be noted that this popular initiative could have a significant impact on Switzerland as business location. In Switzerland – a trading center for commodities – there are nearly 600 companies active in this field. With 10,000 employees they generate around 3.4 per cent of the gross domestic product. Especially in these times, we should not induce needlessly uncertainty in this area.
In Switzerland we have the opportunity to promote food security on earth. Let’s take care of our farm land, and cultivate those crops, we are able to grow! Any food that we do not buy on the world market will be available to other people. Let’s fight actively against waste of food! Thus food can be used reasonably and will not be thrown away. Let’s help to teach many hundreds of millions of small farmers on the world, how they can improve their agricultural production! This must be our way.
Cédric Wermuth (SP, AG – Social Democratic Party, Canton ofAargau): Mr Ritter, it may not surprise you, that I ask you a question on this matter. [...]
You and the farmers‘ representatives herein always have rightly pointed out the importance of re-establishing awareness in our society that food is not just a commodity, that farmers should get – and I quote from a text from you – “a fair price for their products, without speculation, without unnatural fluctuations”.
This can be found in an editorial of the newspaper of the Farmers‘ Association. Aren’t you afraid that you just send a contradicting signal when voting ‘no’ to this initiative? You will be telling the farmers in Switzerland: “Your product is a commodity like any other. If the price of milk is now plummetting, then that‘s just bad luck; it’s your own fault.”
Markus Ritter (CVP, SG): I‘ll tell you a few words as a farmer – I have spoken for our parliamentarian fraction. For us it’s very hard to deal with this initiative, I‘m going to abstain from voting on this initiative. Because the approach to improve food security somehow, that food is becoming increasingly important, is fundamental for us.
The problem of this initiative is the same as with the automatic exchange of information. We can not solve the problem of extensive speculation on our own, because these companies are all very mobile and can move readily away from Switzerland. If we could solve the problem on our own, we would have to consider the initiative from a different point of view. But with this initiative we will not solve any problem.
But what I expect from the Federal Council, is to advocate and contribute for solutions on a global level and to make progress in food security and food supply. That’s my personal point of view so far.
(Verbatim minutes of the Swiss National Council debate of 17.9.2015) •
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