In Europe, since the Middle Ages, economic development took place in the fertile plains where the agricultural activity could support more people than just the farmer’s family. The transport of agricultural goods to city centers was also direct and easy. The best agricultural areas are therefore  also the best located for both economic and urban development and this in turn exerts housing pressure precisely on those best agricultural lands.

The world's population is still growing, and and increasingly in large conglomerations, and this is mirrored in Switzerland too. The average arable land per capita is thus shrinking. In addition urbanization is booming, using up the best agricultural land for industry, housing and infrastructure. This is a growing source of concern.

On the international level - since the food crisis of 2008 - concern for food security is also growing. Rich and powerful countries seek to ensure their own food security by buying agricultural land beyond their borders. In Switzerland the concern about food self-sufficiency was the priority during World War II when borders were closed and the country had to rely mainly on domestic production for its food supply. This concern continued for decades  and the rapid urbanization after the war raised public awareness of the need for land protection. The protection of agricultural lands from building was the core of the law on territorial planning voted in in 1972. In 1992 it was completed with a plan for the protection of the best agricultural lands, keeping 438'560 ha of the best soils free from building.

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Nowadays the situation has changed : the borders are largely open and the stores are fully supplied with products from all over the world, many of which cannot be grown in Switzerland but are now central  to our diet. On the other hand, the economy is flourishing and needs more and more land. Why produce agricultural goods in Switzerland which can be easily imported, when more profitable activities could be developed on these lands?

However soil is a limited resource and the most fertile soils contain up to half of the world's biodiversity, much of it still not discovered. In Switzerland, good agricultural land is limited in extent but not in productivity. Not only are the good soils very fertile, but the climate is excellent  with plenty of rain: wheat yields are comparable with those of the best regions of France, and Switzerland is a world champion of the sugar beet. The cultivated agricultural lands are also a crucial element of our landscape and constitute an essential part of our cultural identity.

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