15:00 GMT07 July 2020
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    Voters in Switzerland have overwhelmingly rejected two proposals on ethical and sustainable food. Final results of the two nationwide polls show that more than 60% of people voted against them. The proposals were aimed at boosting local farming and promoting more sustainable agriculture.

    The proposals' opponents, including business leaders and the government — which advised people to vote no — had warned of higher food prices and less choice.

    The size of the defeat will be a big disappointment to farmers' groups and ethical food campaigners. The first proposal, called fair food, wanted more government support for sustainable, animal-friendly

    Sputnik spoke to Dr Wayne Martindale Principal Lecturer of Food Insights and Sustainability at University of Lincoln on what this vote will mean for sustainable foods.

    Sputnik: What do you make of the vote on sustainable food in Switzerland?

    Dr Wayne Martindale: An initial view was that it was quite surprising in the sense you would assume that a nation such as Switzerland a central European country where food is considered and food values are considered exceptionally important and there is a great pride in agricultural produce and food product from Switzerland itself. Its surprising people wouldn't have voted for food sovereignty and food fairness, that was my initial response but when you begin to think about it, the polls themselves were concerned with increasing the potential interference from government agencies in bringing Swiss food products up to standards that were outside of Switzerland. When you put into that context many Swiss people probably their food was up to those standards and better than them in the first place. 

    Sputnik: Why do you think there was a resounding rejection to support farmers in this vote?

    Dr Wayne Martindale: When you put food prices and restricting choice into the equation, and this is something that often crops up in debates about ethical produce and food certifications, because you're in effect creating an elite around food products by saying these products have greater provenance and greater ethics associated with them and greater sustainability associated with them you're in danger of restricting choice and food products that don't want to get involved with those things but they are just as good.

    Sputnik: What impact will this vote have on the food business in the country?

    Dr Wayne Martindale: I don't think it's going to go away, I also think, this is why it was so surprising because the Swiss as a nation in regards to food provenance are very well informed about pesticides, agriculture import, input use and livestock production and so on. In many ways it's very interesting for me as a researcher in this arena that we have a surprising vote, but when you look at the detail you have the issue of a swing around urban issues vs rural issues and you have this interference of food diversity and food choice being absolutely critical.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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