SIP Forum: one step at a time

We reported in a previous newsletter how the SIP Forum’s draft law became a proposal in the Chamber of Deputies on 23 March. It did not stop there: in July the text was presented to the Italian Senate. The SIP Forum therefore now bears a growing responsibility. It would be a mistake to think that the “game” is over and that the text will swiftly obtain its final approval. Given that it has not been possible over the past 20 years to get a law passed against soil consumption, it will not be an easy task to gain approval in a short space of time for a law that puts in place solid foundations for the protection of the soil and establishes a radical change in the way building and large construction projects are conceived.

At the same time it would be a mistake to think that this draft law applies only to Italy.  It is worth remembering that a proposal for a European directive on the soil was discussed for no less than 8 years  (2006-2014) – without ever being approved! Although it was far from revolutionary, the proposal set out the path that needs to be followed in order to safeguard the soil for future generations. Since that proposed directive was withdrawn we have been in a vacuum that could allow whatever emerges from the Italian “door” back through the EU’s “window”. This is why we must consider immediately whether the text of the Italian draft law as it stands should be put before EU bodies and institutions in order to extract from it the principles of a new EU directive. Continua a leggere “SIP Forum: one step at a time”


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. Continua a leggere “EESC Opinion on Land Use”


Human recklessness grows and grows. In the face of the widespread denial of the reality of climate change we must point out the heatwaves that affected Northern Europe and many other parts of the globe this summer. Above all we should note that Earth Overshoot Day has moved back another day! While in 2017 it fell on 2 August, in 2108 it has fallen on 1 August. We remind readers that this is an indication of the day on which the earth’s inhabitants have consumed the whole of the planet’s resources for the year.

Deeds not words!

Some readers questioned our decision in the last Newsletter to discuss the International Forum on Food & Nutrition and not for example the Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA) which took place in Brussels on 27 March 2018. We can assure readers that we were not encouraged to do so by Barilla! We thought the final document with recommendations for a new CAP based in part on food was a concrete step that added interest to the debates and talks held during the conference on 6 June.


But we also have a confession to make: we no longer have the energy to attend conferences/showcases where the platform is occupied in turn by representatives of international and/or European organizations, with opening remarks by some queen or prince or head of state.

Streams of self-aggrandizing words that recount, recommend, advise and then … see you again next year at another meeting where the whole thing happens all over again.

This is what it was like at the FFA in March 2018, the 11th in a series But the same goes for the EU Green Week, “held” this year from 21 – 25 May ( And for the two EU Development Days (EDD) on 5 and 6 June (

As we observed last year, Green Week ( has been emptied of its meaning as an opportunity for encounters, debates, and yes, “clashes” that gave rise to synergies, options and opportunities.

In our opinion, the EDD retains some interest not because of the platform and the speeches, but because of the dozens of independent stands where you can find new ideas, concrete solutions and practical suggestions.


To return to the FFA it offers – in our view – a magnificent chance to showcase opportunities and possibilities … however it lacks any sort of buzz, you don’t sense the emergence of energy capable of showing us a real way forward.

So instead we will pass on the words of the Chef Massimo Mottura (proprietor of the Osteria Francescana in Modena and founder of “Food for Soul”) in his talk at FFA: “Enough of words! We need concrete, tangible deeds that show the change we need is possible.” (


This does not mean that we no longer intend to speak at European and international conferences on the soil, farming and the environment. We will do so, especially if our readers encourage us to.

As Galileo said: … eppur si muove … (and yet it moves)

Recent years have seen an exponential increase in criticisms of the European institutions. We always expect substantial changes from Brussels …  But often we forget that the EU institutions act on the mandate and under the control of member states, and that the latter do not want to give EU institutions any autonomy. Nevertheless the EU machine does move and when something positive happens we should be pleased and show our appreciation.

On 5 July the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) acquired greater powers over the process of reform of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). In future, the Committee will be able to intervene directly with its own amendments along  with the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) on matters regarding the environment. Technically this relates to article 54 of the rules of procedure of the European Parliament (Procedure for Associated Committees).

Until now the procedure was this: AGRI would send texts on the CAP to all the parliamentary committees with an interest in the subject, and they would read, discuss and send the text back to AGRI with their comments. The latter could decide whether or not to take them into account and it was always AGRI that presented the final version to the European Parliament.

As a result of the change made on 5 July, the comments and texts produced by ENVI will form an integral part of the text that is made available to the full assembly. AGRI and ENVI will therefore work together on the preparation and presentation of the text on agriculture in the EU.

Environmental organizations are pleased with this new situation, which recognizes their efforts to make agriculture more responsive to environmental concerns. Farmers’ organizations are less pleased, as they see the risk of limits being imposed on their farming activities, which are already difficult enough.

We should in any case recognize that Parliament has shown its desire to stress the fact that agriculture is no longer just about farming and that the AGRI committee must accept that agricultural production and environmental protection are equally important, especially in relation to ongoing climate change.

…. Let’s get started

As we have mentioned in previous newsletters, the SIP Forum Gruppo Suolo Europa (Europe Soil Group) is taking action to achieve two objectives: dialogue between the various actors that use or are involved in the soil; and synergies between the various voluntary associations in civil society whose main focus is not on the soil.

In order to achieve the first objective it is necessary to break down prejudices and fixed positions in order to build mutual respect at least, if not complete trust. The second is frequently blocked by the structures of those voluntary organizations themselves.

Both these objectives are hard to achieve and require time. We are reminded that in order to be sustainable the concept of “time” must be respected and cannot be artificially “compressed”. This is illustrated by the failure of the attempt to collect a million signatures for the people4soil European Citizens’ Initiative, which perhaps failed to take account of this fact.

Continua a leggere “…. Let’s get started”

International Forum on Food & Nutrition

Many people are familiar with Barilla products. They can be found in many countries, and not just in Europe. Not many know of the existence of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN), which has been organizing meetings and producing analyses on food and food sustainability since 2009.

Why are we talking about this in this section dedicated to the soil and European institutions?

On last 6 June, the BCFN organized the International Forum on Food & Nutrition in Brussels. The event consisted of a succession of presentations, round tables and debates throughout the day that featured researchers, European political officials (including the current European Commissioner for Agriculture), a number of MEPs (the debate on immigration between 5 members of the European Parliament was particularly interesting), entrepreneurs, representatives of civil society and international organizations and finishing off with an address from the singer and poet Bob Geldof. Continua a leggere “International Forum on Food & Nutrition”

European Dimension: …. A resounding silence greets the Scientists’ 2nd Warning to Humanity

The second warning from scientists and academics on the state of the planet received scant media attention. This is despite the fact that 15,000 of them from 184 different countries signed up to the “Second Warning” to alert humanity to the risks that face it. At least in Italy we have some excuse, given our preoccupation with the failure to qualify for the World Cup and the tortuous path to elections and the formation of a new government …

This is the second such Warning. The first, in  1992, was signed by a “mere” 1700 scientists. But even back then the world was being warned about the degradation of natural resources. The new warning is even more chilling. It lists the problems to be tackled in a way that is both concise and dramatic: Continua a leggere “European Dimension: …. A resounding silence greets the Scientists’ 2nd Warning to Humanity”