Amidst mounting concerns over nature conservation and pesticide control legislation, the European Commission has presented a groundbreaking proposal in Brussels aimed at revitalizing degraded soils. Scientific research suggests that this initiative could not only absorb carbon from the atmosphere but also ensure sustainable food production.
Reviving Soil Health for a Sustainable Future
The proposed law entails regular monitoring of soil health, fertilizer usage, and erosion by member states, emphasizing the need for rejuvenating soil quality. However, critics from the European agri-food industry argue that the absence of binding targets at the national level fails to address the “alarming” condition of soils.
“Our Mission: Healthy Soils by 2050”
EU environment commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, explained in an interview with The Guardian that the ultimate goal is to restore the vitality of soils across the continent by 2050. Presently, over 60% of the EU's soils are classified as unhealthy, posing severe risks to food security and farmers' livelihoods. Sinkevičius stressed the indispensability of fertile soils in sustaining agriculture, averting the detrimental consequences of droughts and floods.
Voluntary Certification and Synergies
The proposed law, while lacking legally binding targets, offers a voluntary certification system for soil health. It aims to create additional income opportunities for farmers and landowners, fostering synergies with carbon farming and payments for ecosystem services, according to Sinkevičius.
Tackling the Root Causes of Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss
Land use stands as the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, following fossil fuels. It also plays a significant role in biodiversity decline, as excessive fertilizer use and degradation of peatlands exacerbate both crises. Recent research indicates that even modest enhancements in agricultural soils worldwide could store enough carbon to limit global heating to 1.5°C.
Industry Calls for Heightened Ambition
One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B), the leading representative of the European agri-food industry in Brussels, argues that the current proposals fall short. OP2B's director, Stefania Avanzini, expressed the need for the EU member states and the European Parliament to raise their ambition and take more substantial action to address the deteriorating soil health in Europe. Avanzini emphasized the significance of agriculture in soil management and called for increased efforts and funding to support the transition to large-scale regenerative agriculture.
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