EESC Opinion on Land Use

There is an old story about a smuggler who crossed the border between two countries every day pushing an empty wheelbarrow. The customs officers stopped him and searched him many times without finding anything amiss. After a long time one of the customs officers told the smuggler he was about to retire, and asked him to finally tell him what he had been smuggling and how. The answer was: “Wheelbarrows, you just have to push them”.

We in the European Soil Group and SIP Forum do not regard ourselves as “smugglers”, but we definitely do push our “wheelbarrow” along every day. It is not empty, but holds our vision to create the European Forum to Save the Landscape and Defend the Land. This is why we continue to try to establish contacts with those who use the soil without any concern about how they are using it. It is not a question of reaching “compromises”, but rather of understanding one another. Documents are piling up in our wheelbarrow that contain the different positions of the various different actors. In describing them we try to underline the most important points, including those which to us seem like weak points.

Here we are looking at a document produced by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC): Land use for sustainable food production and ecosystem services (NAT/713-EESC-2017-EESC-2017-01814-00-00-AC-TRA). It is an exploratory opinion requested by the Estonian Presidency and adopted by the EESC in a plenary session on 18 October 2017 (it is available in all the Community languages).

Key points

This is an honest document that regards the soil as a component of the ecosystem as a whole.

It contains a request for a specific EU Directive on the soil (5.1)

It includes the soil in the concept of the public good (5.5),

It stresses the need to raise awareness and to have a dialogue with all actors who have shared interests in the soil (5.32).

Weak points

It seems to be aimed only at those who are already interested in the soil.

Some technical and scientific details are taken as given, whereas in fact they are still up for discussion.

There is a mistaken attitude towards farmers ie that we have to “teach” farmers how they should farm.

We invite our readers to read the document and share their thoughts.