After the oceans, the soil represents the planet’s largest carbon stock and a third of all living species are to be found under its surface. It’s a shared heritage, and it’s at risk in many countries.
“We are destroying the soil, forgetting that it guarantees 95% of our food. The land provides all the nutrients and water we need to produce food. It filters rainwater and recirculates it, making it clean and drinkable, and it regulates the climate,” states Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. “It takes thousands of years to create a few centimeters of fertile soil, but only a few decades to destroy it, and it isn’t always possible to recover its structure and fertility. If soil is lifeless and unhealthy, it’s impossible to produce wholesome food.”
Slow Food is dedicating an Observatory of Biodiversity to the soil, highlighting the causes of its destruction:
- The Industrialization of Agriculture: Chemical fertilizers, high-yield seeds, pesticides, herbicides and monocultures have almost tripled agricultural production but they have also heavily compromised biodiversity, both in terms of the microorganisms in the soil and the crops grown in it.
- Erosion: The water and the wind erasing part of the stratum of the soil (only a few tens of centimeters in depth) in which organic matter is concentrated. That reduces its fertility, often irreversibly.
- Deforestation: Every year 7.3 million hectares of forest are cut down—an area the size of Panama—especially in tropical regions (e.g. Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand, Congo). Deforestation accounts for 6 to 12% of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.
- Impermeabilization: It’s caused by urbanization and the construction of infrastructure such as roads and railways. Between 1990 and 2006, over 15,000km² (an area bigger than Northern Ireland) of land was impermeabilized. If this trend continues, within a century we will have lost an area the size of Hungary.
- Pollution and extraction: Every year, about 200,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste are produced worldwide and the trend is growing constantly.
Slow Food also indicates a pathway towards reversing the damage and protecting soil fertility: adopting agroecology.
The soil is a complex living ecosystem whose balance has to be preserved. Agroecology is an approach that produces fertile soils rich in organic matter (carbon), requires fewer chemical inputs, preserves biodiversity and protects soil from erosion and desertification.
Slow Food and another 400 organizations have joined together in the People 4 Soil network to launch a European petition for the defense of the soil. The aim is to collect a million signatures across Europe in the next twelve months to make the EU Parliament recognize the soil as a shared heritage and pass a law to ensure its sustainable management.
Soil is not subject to a coherent set of rules in the countries of the European Union today and a proposal for a Soil Framework Directive was withdrawn in 2014 after being blocked for eight years by a minority of Member States.
Unfortunately, existing European policies in other areas are not sufficient to ensure an adequate level of protection for all soils in Europe. But European citizens have the right to participate directly in the drafting of EU policies thanks to an ECI (European Citizens’ Initiative), an important tool of participatory democracy that has been activated by the People4Soil network.
To sign and spread the People4Soil campaign, click here.
For further information, please contact the Slow Food International Press Office:
[email protected] – Twitter: @SlowFoodPress
Slow Food is a global grassroots organization that envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Slow Food involves over a million activists, chefs, experts, youth, farmers, fishers and academics in over 160 countries. Among them, a network of around 100,000 Slow Food members are linked to 1,500 local chapters worldwide, contributing through their membership fee, as well as the events and campaigns they organize. As part of the network, more than 2,400 Terra Madre food communities practice small-scale and sustainable production of quality food around the world.