Almost 200 responses came from the various souls of European civil society to the consultation launched by the EU Commission in view of the future law to protect the soil. Among them, the suggestions and proposals of the Re Soil Foundation
by Emanuele Isonio
Biodiversity, food safety, natural carbon sinks, citizen health and the quality and safety of food production: all crucial aspects for our life. And they all depend on the soil. “A European law on soil health is therefore urgent, to make the challenge of reducing land degradation credible, developing a set of tools and regulatory levers to guide the behavior of economic, social and institutional actors”. Thus begins the document sent by the Re Soil Foundation to the European Commission in response to the “call for evidence” launched in view of the implementation of a law on soil, announced by Brussels as part of its Soil Strategy 2030.
The call is a public consultation through which the Commission invites all interested parties to provide their point of view on a certain issue, providing empirical evidence on the expected benefits, unwanted effects and issues that should be within a regulatory act of European Union. A sort of participatory process to arrive at a normative text that is as shared as possible.
Three priority actions
Within its document, the Re Soil Foundation specifically suggests three priority actions to help restore health to soil and ecosystems:
- Stop thinking about unlimited growth. In fact, it is not possible to limit oneself to replacing fossil materials one by one with renewable ones.
- Using bioproducts to activate cultural change. Objective: To redesign the way in which materials are produced, consumed and disposed of, favoring the growth of multi-product supply chains with high added value.
- Stop the degradation of water and soil, using biodegradable products for those applications where there is a high risk of dispersion and accumulation in the environment and avoiding the loss and waste of organic matter.
To achieve the three proposed objectives, the importance of the development of the circular bioeconomy and the use of clean compost and other organic materials in agriculture are emphasized. The latter, the document reads, “represent an important solution to two problems: adding a precious soil improver to the land and preventing organic waste from ending up in landfills, a practice prohibited by the new framework directive on waste starting from 2024.
The most numerous proposals from Belgium, France and Germany
Finally, the document recalls the need to strengthen the link between farmers and research and innovation through Lighthouse Farms. A sort of “model farms”. Through them, farmers, researchers, civil society and other stakeholders plan together innovative agricultural systems aimed at reducing environmental impacts and maximizing the efficient use of resources for high soil quality.
The call of the EU Commission, however, recorded almost 200 responses: non-governmental organizations, companies, trade associations, universities, research centers, environmental groups and private citizens.Belgium, France, Germany and Italy are, in order, the states from which most of the proposals came.
One of the documents produced was signed by over 25 associations, which include, in addition to the Re Soil Foundation, the Italian FAI, Legambiente, the National Institute of Urban Planning, the Medes Foundation and Terra.
“Healthy soils – reads their position paper – are the result and, at the same time, the prerequisite of the agroecological transition in food systems. The seedbed in which the European Green Deal should take root”.
“Developing a Soil Health Index”
According to the underwriters, the governance of the soil requires the search for participatory solutions, inclusive and coordinated action programs and a concert of actions by all private and public actors who in various capacities hold a property right, an administration mandate on the land, or indirectly affect land use and soil health through market power. However, there are still important knowledge gaps on the state of soil health, especially at the level of the individual territories. “The enormous diversity of soil types and the highly site-specific character of soil interactions with climatic, biological, geological interactions and land use pressures are a big problem in drawing accurate maps.”
However, there are still important knowledge gaps on the state of soil health, especially at the level of the individual territories. “The enormous diversity of soil types and the highly site-specific character of soil interactions with climatic, biological, geological interactions and land use pressures are a big problem in drawing accurate maps.”
Hence the most relevant proposal, contained in the position paper. That of developing a soil health index at the level of individual parcels, to be calculated and used in each individual land transaction. “Recognizing that the commercial evaluation of the soil cannot disregard its health status is an element of transparency in exchanges. Above all, it is a useful incentive to evaluate and enhance the soil care efforts implemented by the owners ”.
The first phase of the call launched by the European Commission, which closed yesterday, will be followed in the coming months by a new consultation. In this case, a closed-ended questionnaire should be provided. The enactment of the regulatory provision by Brussels is instead expected for the second quarter of 2023.