EU Green Deal: time to scale up agroecology
20 Apr 2021 | English
Have your say on a review of the EU Soil Strategy to get binding targets for Members States
The formation of soil is a long process: it takes about a thousand years to develop five centimetres of fertile soil. When soil is destroyed, for example by construction work, it is practically irrecoverable, requiring lengthy and complicated environmental restoration work. It’s not just construction activities that kill the soil: industrial agriculture also bears considerable responsibility. ”The spread of industrial agriculture that aims to increase yields is closely linked to the use of synthetic chemicals, genetics and technology; it promotes the spread of monocultures with inevitable consequences for our water and soil consumption and impoverishes soil fertility levels,” comments Marta Messa, Director of Slow Food Europe. “As Slow Food affirms, only agroecological practices, which limit monocultures and the use of synthetic chemicals, avoid deep ploughing, rotate crops and introduce green manure, can preserve or regenerate soil fertility.”
In its Biodiversity and Farm to Fork Strategies, the EU aims to reduce nutrient loss by at least 50% by 2030 while ensuring no deterioration in soil fertility. That is why it is important that everybody loudly affirms “that the EU needs a dedicated, legally-binding framework to protect European soils from the threats posed by land grabs, soil degradation and contamination,” adds Messa. “Therefore, the renewed Soil Strategy must identify agroecology as the main tool to achieve its objectives.” The Soil Strategy has the potential to set Europe on the right track to restoring soil fertility. But it is essential that the Common Agricultural Policy be clearly aligned with the Soil Strategy, just as it should be aligned with the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategy: 33.1% of the total EU budget goes to the Common Agricultural Policy, and this is where we must see the Green Deal translated into concrete measures.
The new EU Soil Strategy will address soil- and land-related issues to help achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030, one of the key targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It will look into ways to protect soil fertility, reduce erosion and increase organic matter in the soil. The strategy will also consider challenges such as identifying contaminated sites, restoring degraded soils, defining the conditions for their good ecological status and improving the monitoring of soil quality.
Soil with less than 2% organic matter—as is often the case in countries where intensive agriculture is dominant, meaning a high use of chemicals and mechanization—is impoverished, lacking structure and degraded. Half of all European countries have a low content of organic matter in their soil, primarily those in Southern Europe, but also some parts of the United Kingdom and Germany, and no chemical fertilizer can compensate for this shortfall.
The loss of soil biodiversity jeopardizes the functions of the soil ecosystem. The transition to agroecological food systems should take inspiration from the Ten Elements of Agroecology and the 13 Agroecological Principles of the FAO and of the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security. In short, it cannot be only chemistry that saves the land, and science certifies it: at the end of March, Nature Geoscience published a study by a group of scholars from the University of Sydney, according to which 64% of agricultural land in the world is at risk of pollution by pesticides and 31%, including most of European land, is at high risk.
“To achieve these goals, it is fundamental that we acknowledge the role agroecological smallholder farmers play in maintaining healthy soils and their potential in ensuring the transition of the wider farming community to sustainable soil management, as well as the role that local communities play in supporting healthy and fair food systems. Institutions must link their support to those who concretely engage in regenerative practices,” concludes Messa.
Slow Food International Press Office
Alessia Pautasso – [email protected] (+39) 342 8641029
Paola Nano – [email protected] (+39) 329 8321285
Slow Food is a worldwide network of local communities founded in 1989 in order to counteract the disappearance of local food traditions and the spread of fast food culture. Since then, Slow Food has grown to become a global movement that involves millions of people in more than 160 countries and works so that we can all have access to good, clean and fair food.
Change the world through food
Learn how you can restore ecosystems, communities and your own health with our RegenerAction Toolkit.