During Global Soil Week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has urged for more concrete measures to protect soils. The FAO is calling for more action to protect soil in 2015, the UN’s international year of soils. This international year aims to highlight the importance of healthy soil and draw attention to the threats facing this most important resource.
Earlier this month, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva highlighted soils as an area of priority in talks with high-level EU representatives, including agriculture commissioner Paul Hogan. Last year, the EU withdrew plans for a Soils Framework Directive that would have accorded soil the same protection as other non-renewable resources; a blocking minority of states had stalled the plans at their draft stage since 2006. Speaking at the third Global Soil Week in Berlin, Moujahed Achouri, Director of FAO’s Land and Water Division, called the rate of soil degradation around the world “alarming.”
Globally, 33 percent of agricultural soil is classified as degraded. A 2013 report by the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) revealed that soil biodiversity is under threat across 56 percent of EU territory. JRC pointed to unsustainable exploitation of soils as the main factor behind Europe’s problem, and showed that soil is most threatened in states - like the UK - which have sought to block more effective protection for soils.
FAO’s Moujahed Achouri told those gathered at the Soil Week event, “Soils are essential for achieving food security and nutrition and have the potential to help mitigate the negative impacts of climate change,” but warned that pressures on soil resources are reaching critical limits. “If humanity’s overarching need for food security and nutrition, climate change mitigation and sustainable development Is to be met, soil resources have to be given the global attention they deserve,” the FAO director said. Achouri said that protecting soil health would enable farmers to produce more and healthier food, and lead to cleaner water and better carbon sequestration. FAO hopes to include soil issues in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are currently being formulated.
In addition to sustaining 95 percent of food production and storing carbon, soils host more than a quarter of the planet’s biodiversity and play a key role in developing important pharmaceuticals.
"Bananas leave a heavy toll on soils because of the multiple agrochemicals that are required to produce commecrial exports, whilst pineapples are one of the worst crops for soil erosion, because of the large areas of exposed soils." commented Alistair Smith, International Coordinator of Banana Link.