The EU Proposes a Framework for Healthy Soils

The EU Commission has published a proposal for a legal framework to better protect soils. Until now, there has been hardly any legal basis for soil protection, in contrast to air and water, which is why the EU Parliament and other institutions had called on the Commission to develop one.

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The EU wants healthier soils (Photo: Kannapat/
The EU wants healthier soils (Photo: Kannapat/

The Commission has now laid down some rough rules for sustainable soil management and the remediation of contaminated sites, leaving the application of the measures to the member states. The Commission's proposal merely lays down certain principles that member states should follow when defining measures. For example, they are encouraged to adopt measures only in consultation with affected land managers, such as farmers.

Incentives instead of prohibitions

Member states are recommended to link their measures to national or European support programs in order to create incentives. The participation of farmers in such support programs is voluntary. However, polluters of contaminated soils, insofar as they can be identified, should bear the costs of soil remediation. Farmers are to be provided with regular data and information about the condition of their soils. In addition, they will be given the opportunity to have their soil health certified (on a voluntary basis). 

The Commission wants to support the member states with funds for research, technical solutions, data and networks. For this, they would have to report every five years on how progress is being made toward the overall goal of 100% healthy soils by 2050.

Unhealthy soils are expensive

According to the EU, 60% of European soils are currently considered unhealthy. Soil degradation and its associated consequences are already estimated to have cost more than €50bn annually, because, in addition to negative impacts on climate and biodiversity, unhealthy soils are also failing to deliver on their yield potential. A reversal of the trend is urgently needed to prevent natural disasters and droughts, to achieve climate protection and biodiversity goals, and to be able to produce healthy, safe food. VM

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