Newsletter n.81


1.EXPERIENCES: The Research and Innovation DG’s Soil Mission – strengths and weaknesses





The Research and Innovation DG’s Soil Mission – strengths and weaknesses

We have received and publish here an analysis of the report of the Board of experts appointed by the European Commission’s Research and Innovation DG: Caring for soil is caring for life.

We remind readers that the report was the subject of a seminar organized by the SIP Forum on 24 September 2020.

“The document entitled: “Taking care of the soil is taking care of life” has the merit of helping to put the soil at the centre of European public attention. It therefore represents an opportunity to develop soil culture in Europe and to initiate policies and actions for soil conservation. Alongside the numerous strengths that can be highlighted, however, there are some weaknesses, which should be discussed.

In my opinion, one of the main merits of the document is to emphasize that soil concerns us not only for the services rendered to man, but also for itself, that is, for its value as a natural body and support to all forms of life, not just ours. This position contrasts with what has been advocated and is still being repeated by many of the main players in soil research and European policies.

Another very welcome point is the multi-stakeholder approach of the actions to be taken on soil protection, with the involvement of civil society and a greater effort to spread the culture of the soil.

The strategic vision of the document, on the other hand, appears to be extremely ambitious and difficult to achieve, since, according to the Commission itself, it would correspond to a 100% increase in healthy soils compared to the current reference value, with the reversal of the trend of many ongoing degradation processes.

Another concern that arises from the reading of the document regards the setting up of living laboratories and lighthouses examples. It is the risk of investing more and more for the benefit of a few “premium farmers”, leaving all other farmers further and further behind. This trend is already present in Europe and is highlighted by the results of the CAP policies, which see 1.1% of farms, the large ones, collect 22.8% of European economic aid, while small companies, which are the majority (55%), only get 5.8%. In carrying out the Mission, the selection of living laboratories and flagship examples should carefully consider the territorial dimension and their location, so that they are truly engines of development for large territories and several agricultural communities.

There is also a lack of consideration of a fundamental issue, the environmental consequences and the soil degradation caused by the EU’s policies relating to trade agreements with third countries. These, in fact, allow the import of food and feedstuffs produced with methods and tools not permitted in Europe. This unfair competition has put many European farmers out of business and is one of the causes of the massive agricultural abandonment occurring especially in southern and eastern Europe. But everywhere in Europe, soil degradation goes hand in hand with the spasmodic cuts in cultivation costs, to compete with the low prices (and low quality) of imported food and feedstuffs.

The Soil Mission document should have clearly asserted that in the current system of food production, distribution, and waste, those who pay for the difference between the market price (relatively low) and cost of production (relatively high) are the health of farmers and the soil!”

More info: Edoardo A.C. Costantini eac.costantini@gmail.com

President Elect – International Union of Soil Sciences

Secretary – European Society for Soil Conservation


Comitato Cittadino di San Giorgio a Cremano (Naples)

Francesco Russo, as representative of the Comitato Cittadino di San Giorgio a Cremano, has belonged to SIP at the national level for a long time.

The Committee follows and takes part in initiatives to protect the environment, the soil and land in particular. A very active core group is concerned with training young people. This led to the creation several years ago of the Università Popolare Paesi Vesuviani, headed up by Russo, which is engaged in professional training and offers the knowledge and skills needed to operate in the area of international importing and exporting for businesses offering goods and services, as well as marketing strategies for emerging economies in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. The main focus is imports and exports in the agri-food sector. Many of the teachers are managers from the big shipping companies who share their experience, understanding of practical operations, theoretical and practical knowledge and competencies, leading to employment opportunities in the sectors of marketing, international business and tourism.

Contact details: Università Popolare Paesi Vesuviani
Via E. A. Mario 6
80046 San Giorgio a Cremano (NAPOLI) Email: unisangiorgio@virgilio.it e Saverio.france.russo@gmail.com


Agroecological approach

GNDE – Civil Society   https://report.gndforeurope.com/

Agroecology is a term that is entering official documents on farming. FAO’s definition is rather complicated:

“Agroecology is based on applying ecological concepts and principles to optimize interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system. By building synergies, agroecology can support food production and food security and nutrition while restoring the ecosystem services and biodiversity that are essential for sustainable agriculture. Agroecology can play an important role in building resilience and adapting to climate change.”

Regardless of the definition, agroecology brings together a change in social relations, strengthening farmers and favouring short production-consumption chains. It is therefore coming to the fore as an alternative solution to industrial farming that ignores environmental limits. This is why, in the context of a new version of the CAP that is still strongly focused on old-style farming methods, 20 European NGOs have launched a joint appeal (attached here) for an agroecological approach based on the 10 elements set out by the FAO http://www.fao.org/3/I9037EN/i9037en.pdf and the 13 principles of agroecology.

The main recommendation is to use the 10 Elements and 13 Principles to guide the design of policy interventions across Europe. Accordingly, EU Member States would need to draw up National Strategic Plans (NSPs) and design their interventions according to specific, evidence-based targets, to embed agroecology into NSPs, including eco-schemes and Rural Development Interventions.

We applaud this initiative which called for agroecology to be included in future European food production policies. We also note that the European Commission is attempting to stress the importance of agroecological practices. In January 2021 it published a list of farming practices that could underpin Eco-Schemes. The list includes many of the elements of agroecology and in particular practices that conserve the structure and fertility of the soil.


Taxonomy … who benefits?

We have looked in previous Newsletters at “Taxonomy – Financing a sustainable European Economy”. 

We are returning to the topic because – as could have been predicted – it provokes considerable discussion. The EU’s Taxonomy is a tool to help investors, businesses, creators and promoters of projects to establish an economy based on low carbon emissions, resilient and efficient in resource use.

The European Union is making important political choices to address the climate crisis: taking steps towards a net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) commitment by 2050; and a more realistic target for 2030. The final opportunities to achieve our shared climate goals are fast approaching, and many in the market still underestimate the scale and pace of the transition that is needed. The Taxonomy is the instrument to realise these objectives and it defines what is “green”. It does not say that everything else is bad for the environment, or that it has to be shut out of the transition to a more sustainable economy. In fact, the Taxonomy says the opposite, showing the pathway for economic transition in an inclusive way. In other words, the Taxonomy gives us guidance and confidence in what we need to do.

Continua a leggere “Taxonomy … who benefits?”

Public consultations by the Environment DG on the Soil and Forest strategies

We have two unmissable opportunities to make our aims and ambitions known at European level on two important environmental subjects: the soil and forests.

The European Commission’s Environment DG has launched two public Consultations in advance of drawing up these two strategies: the one for Forests on 29 January, closing on 19 April, that on the soil on 2 February with a closing date of 27 April 2021.

This is an opportunity to take a step froward in defining both strategies.

The consultations are multilingual and the questionnaires are based on specific proposals for possible actions to include in the strategies. The fact that they are in multiple choice format enables the very high number of expected replies (maybe tens of thousands) to be dealt with automatically to produce statistical results. The content of the strategies can be deduced from the questions.

We invite all our readers to take the time to respond, for which it is necessary to register first (open also to UK people).

Here are the details:


Commission consults on new EU Soil Strategy

The European Commission has launched an online public consultation on the development of a new EU Soil Strategy.

Consultation: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12634-Healthy-soils-new-EU-soil-strategy/public-consultation


Commission consults on new EU Forest Strategy

As part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission has launched an online public consultation on the development of a new EU Forest Strategy.


How to save the soil of Dobrudzha (Bulgaria) and more!

Dobrudzha is a region in North-East Bulgaria. It is renowned for having – after Egypt (the areas around the Nile) and Ukraine – the deepest layer of humus in the world. Its soil is the richest in organic matter in the whole of Europe. Delegates and researchers at the world conference on the soil held two years ago in the city of Albena were astonished at the landscape, quality and richness of what this soil produces. We should stress that the soils of Dobrudzha are among the 5% of soils throughout the world that allow us to remain optimistic about the future of our planet. We can therefore not permit – and this is the duty of all of us – these soils to disappear or be turned over to other uses.

But for the past 17 years and more this land has been the subject of attempts by different firms to locate and extract gas by fracking. For example in 2012 the American corporation Chevron was blocked by public opinion and then by the Bulgarian government which imposed a moratorium. This did not put a stop to other attempts, which for now have been rejected one after the other. The administrations, institutions, companies, experts and citizens (referendum result: 97% said “No to the location and extraction of gas”) and finally even the Minister for the Environment defended the land and prohibited gas extraction.

Everyone relaxed, thinking they had won the battle.

Given this situation, the fracking firms should give up, and instead they continue to try and find ways to reach their objective: to obtain a permit to exploit the land for 60 years (it was 35 until a few months ago). The projects propose installing 41 probes to identify gas to be extracted over a vast area, including the lake which is the only source of water for irrigation and drinking water for hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

Another big risk is posed by the water that is a by-product of the probes because it contains acid that collects in large pools before being taken elsewhere. But it is highly likely that it will leach into the surrounding land and very probable that it will reach the aquifers. The loss of microorganisms from the soil, and the deaths of bees and insects have already been recorded. The historic bird migration route known as the Via Pontica also passes over here.

We should also remember that this is an area at high risk of earthquakes and the gas would be extracted from the rock layers underneath the lake.

For the people of Dobrudzha the task of defending this motherland is not just an obligation for the future but an honour. Protecting Dobrudzha is a matter for the whole EU and indeed the world! The Dobrudzha community that has been fighting for years to defend its land is doing it for all of us and cannot be abandoned. This land is for everyone, which is why the citizens have set up a site with all the information about every step that has led to this point, three Facebook pages with more than 70,000 followers, and a new website under development for the defence of this land.

Further info from:  Villi Simeonova velichkasimeonova7@gmail.com





This is the new site: https://www.facebook.com/dobrogeabg/