Time to dig in and save our soils, say Green MEPs

Green MEPs are using World Soil Day to urge the EU and the UK government to save our soil. They are backing the European Citizen’s Initiative, ‘People4Soil’, through which a coalition of over 400 groups and associations are calling for specific EU regulations to protect the soil.

The MEPs point to the global problem of soil degradation and depletion caused by erosion, contamination, desertification, intensive farming and being concreted over. A recent scientific study revealed that water erosion alone is responsible for the loss of 970 million tons of soil every year in the EU; equivalent to a 1m-depth loss of soil from an area the size of Berlin.

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, and a member of the European Parliament’s Environment committee, said:

“Healthy soil is critical. It is the source of our food, and safeguards biodiversity, both as a habitat for below-ground species and a host for many thousands of microbes. Soil also has a vital role to play in tackling climate change with Europe’s soils operating as an enormous carbon sink.”

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, who sits on the Parliament’s Agricultural committee, said:

“The intensification of farming poses serious risks for our soils. Where the same crops are grown again and again, there can be serious declines in organic matter which reduces soil fertility. The use of herbicides in intensive agriculture can also affect the soil around plant roots which contains vital bacteria and fungi. We need to move rapidly towards farming practices that are environmentally just. We know, for example, that organic farming helps create a healthy living soil which is more resistant to drought and floods and consequently the impacts of climate change.”

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, called for urgent action:

“It’s time for politicians to get their hands dirty and set to work on legislation to safeguard our soil. That is why as Greens we are delighted to back a new citizens’ initiative, supported by over 400 groups and associations, which aims to get over a million people to sign a petition calling on the EU to adopt specific legislation on soil protection.”

The Greens/EFA report: Why Soil Matter: A European Perspective can be viewed online here.