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Submitted by admin on Mon, 07/09/2018 - 13:44
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Sowing the seeds of tomorrow

What do a pharmacist, a nursery school teacher and an architect all have in common? They all became unlikely activists in the historic case of the first pesticide-free town.

In 2014, Mals, a German-speaking town of 5,300 inhabitants in the north of Italy, became the first community in the world to hold a referendum on pesticide use. The result was a landslide: 75% voted for a ban. But how did this small town triumph over the powerful pesticide industry?

In this series we are exploring the value of regulation in protecting people and planet. We have travelled across Europe to meet real people fighting to protect the things they cherish, using – or calling for – regulation to help their struggle. In this episode, we see how the people of Mals used the precautionary principle planned for by EU law to go beyond basic pesticide safety standards and introduced a law banning pesticides. 

The people of Mals used EU laws to justify a ban on pesticide use. 

“I think it is on us to preserve and to regulate our world”

Margit Gasser, member of Hollawint


The treaty underpinning the EU aims to ensure the highest level of environmental protection by taking the ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach. This precautionary principle allows laws to be passed on the basis of potential, but unknown, risks.

This extends to the EU law covering pesticide use. So the people of Mals made use of these laws. It paid off in 2016, when Mayor Uli Veith introduced a de facto ban on pesticides. 

However, the story is not yet over. Fast-forward to 2018, and the town is facing significant backlash from big industrial farming trade unions and the pesticide industry. The decision has been legally challenged multiple times and four years after the referendum, the people’s decision to ban pesticides hasn’t been implemented because of court delays.


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Special thanks to: Philip Ackerman-Leist, Koen Hertoge