The European Commission on Wednesday proposed what would be the first EU law to improve soil health, aimed at curbing degradation caused by intensive farming and the worsening impact of climate change.
The proposal, made as the European Union faces a political backlash against other green policies, follows a first attempt by the Commission to introduce soil health legislation in 2006, which a minority of countries, including Germany and France, have blocked.
The new plan – which major food industry players Unilever, Nestlé and Danone immediately criticized as unambitious – would require countries to track soil health against criteria such as erosion and excessive levels of soil. nutrients in fertilizers.
EU states should also identify sites where soil is contaminated with chemicals and address those that pose health risks. But the proposal would not require them to meet minimum levels of soil health.
The One Planet Business for Biodiversity, a business coalition including Unilever, Nestlé and Danone, said the proposal was not ambitious enough.
“Despite the worrying state of EU soils and the solutions mentioned in the proposal, it does not provide an ambitious framework for coordinated development of soil health at European level,” the group said in a statement. .
The EU estimates that at least 61% of the bloc’s soils are unhealthy, due to factors including peatland degradation and heavy fertilizer use.
Asked about the lack of binding targets, EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius said the aim was first to establish a clearer picture of soil health and methods to manage it from more sustainable way.
“We also need to see the political landscape of what would be acceptable to member states, along with what we can do,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Caroline Heinzel, policy manager at the European Environmental Bureau’s Coalition of Campaign Groups, said the proposal “falls short of expectations by not including legally binding targets or by requiring mandatory plans”.
Separately, the Commission has also proposed binding targets for countries to reduce food waste and rules to make textile producers legally responsible for the cost of their waste – a measure designed to boost investment in collection, reuse and recycling. recycling of used clothing and materials.
By Kate Abnett; editor John Stonestreet
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