First meeting in Olten – When citizens have a say in food policy – News

First meeting in Olten – When citizens have a say in food policy – News


The Swiss Civic Council for Food Policy started its work at its first meeting in Olten. I am looking for a sustainable food system for Switzerland.

What’s next for food policy? 100 Swiss can now comment on this. They are not political professionals, but were chosen by lot to participate in the citizens’ council. This democratic twist is new to our direct democracy and is co-financed by the federal government.

People sit around the round table

Caption: Participants discuss at the first meeting of the Citizens’ Council for Food Policy in Olten. key stone

  • Angela Meier is a remedial teacher: “I am a mother myself and I think nutrition is an issue that affects us all,” says the 42-year-old.
  • Retired business economist Philippe Gacond worries about the world: “I’m taking part because I use every opportunity to make a difference. The situation in the world is serious. “
  • Meanwhile, 33-year-old farmer Martina Stettler wants to introduce the farmers’ perspective: “The prejudice that farmers are guilty is depressing me.”
  • 24-year-old Janina Inauen has just written her BA thesis. She says, “I would like to live in a land that is still habitable and beautiful.”

Four people to bring different views on food policy to the Council. Over the next six months, they will deepen their knowledge of agricultural production, ecological systems, food processing and consumer protection. They listen to experts and visit companies. Finally, they can adopt a catalog of measures that go into politics.

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New – but only for Switzerland

Open the box. Close the box

There are already citizens’ councils in many countries, but according to political scientist Daniel Kübler, Switzerland is more late. The idea was born in developing countries, where the poorer population has too little influence in politics. In Brazil, participatory budgeting decision-making processes were drafted so that poor people could bring their point of view to the distribution of state money.

Such councils can be a link between established and legal institutions, such as parliament and government, and the population.

But aren’t parliaments and elected politicians really for this? Council project manager Daniel Langmeier says that the opinion of a normal population is not of sufficient weight in the political process: “These voices are not voiced in depth, mostly yes or no – or interest group.” Thanks to the Council, they were now able to give politicians the means to make better decisions.

NGOs provoke criticism

There are three NGOs behind the project. Biovision, an association for agriculture with a future and a network for sustainable solutions. All organizations that pursue the goal of greener, more sustainable agriculture.

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Strong criticism from above

Open the box. Close the box

In the run-up to the project, the Civic Food Policy Council faced severe criticism. Farmers President and Central National Councilor Markus Ritter was quoted in the Aargauer Zeitung as saying the procedure was completely incomprehensible, suspicious and illegal. SVP National Councilor and Farmer Marcel Dettling criticized Monday during Question Time, the federal government subsidizing the project: “There are no shadow parliaments in Switzerland – now they are doing the exact opposite and financing 400,000 francs like citizens’ councils out of public money. This is not politically correct. “

Agriculture Minister Guy Parmelin replied that the Food Policy Council was not permanent and would not have decision-making powers. On the other hand, Switzerland fulfills the OECD recommendation for greater citizen participation.

Daniel Langmeier says the organizations would not be able to influence substantive debates in the council. The participants were selected at random by an independent market research institute.

He is not surprised that farmers politicians feel questioned, says Daniel Kübler, political scientist at the Center for Democracy in Aarau and the University of Zurich: “Agricultural policy is strongly influenced by the interests of the associations. That advice would probably be to stab a hornet’s nest. ”

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A supplement, not a threat to parliaments

The councils could certainly open up existing decision-making processes, especially if they were influenced by a strong lobby like in Switzerland, says Kübler. On the other hand, citizens’ councils do not have the power to make political decisions, so the parliament’s legitimacy is not jeopardized.

It is clear to the participants in the Council that they cannot make any political decisions. But they hope politicians will listen to them. At the beginning of November, when they present a catalog of measures.

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