An advocacy group which wants the European Commission to protect soil quality is using the EU citizens initiative. People4Soil argues that there are EU laws to protect air, water and natural habitats, but nothing is in place to safeguard soil.
The group said in a statement: âWe are calling on the European Commission to pass a Soil Directive which would safeguard Irish and European soils. We are doing this using a European Citizenâs Initiative petition â the official way for ordinary Europeans to call on the European Commission to act on the things citizens care about.â
Among the high-profile supporters of the group are food writer and broadcaster Darina Allen, along with the advocacy federation Environmental Pillar. Allen posted a video in which she said: âEach and every one of us totally depends on the four or five inches of soil surrounding us for our very existence. Remember if we don't have rich fertile soil we won't have good food and we won't have clean water. So let's stop treating soil like dirt.â
Klaus Laitenberger is a spokesman for People4Soil. Speaking at a conference recently he outlined the reasons why we should be concerned about soil degradation: âThe biggest threat that we face as the human species is the decline in soil fertility. We are losing soil at a massive rate. We won't have enough soil left to feed a growing world population if we continue to farm the way we do.â
Laitenberger quoted United Nations official figures which estimate that âwe have about 60 or a 100 harvests left before we starve.â This is because âevery year we are losing 24 billion tonnes of topsoil, or 12 million hectares.â He said: â25% of the world's arable land area has been degraded.â
Under EU rules a citizens' petition must garner over a million votes from at least seven different EU states within 12 months of being launched, before the Commission will act on it. Â A citizens' initiative to ban the herbicide ingredient glyphosate has already gathered over 726,000 signatures since it launched in February.
Environment groups see these petitions as a way of sending a message to politicians and administrative officials, about issues they and their supporters see as important. While industry reaction to these petitions is dismissive, if they reach the stipulated goals the Commission will be forced into an official response.The People4Soil petition may be viewed here.