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MEP Luena: the importance of sustainable agriculture

Published: 21/02/2022

As part of our #FoodFuture campaign, we spoke to César Luena MEP about the importance of sustainable agriculture in the fight against climate change and how we can achieve more sustainable food systems.

Agriculture plays a central role in our European environmental and climate objectives and that is why we are working towards making it more sustainable and respectful with nature.

Currently, the agriculture sector registers high greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, in 2015, it accounted for 10 % of the EU’s total GHG emissions. In addition, agricultural activities rely on a highly valuable ecosystem for climate change: soil, which increases its strong environmental impact. Intensive agricultural practices, unsustainable use of land and the excessive use of pesticides, to mention some issues, are causing soil contamination and degradation throughout Europe.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, for which I was the rapporteur in the European Parliament, not only considers soil as a key ecosystem in terms of biodiversity, but also acknowledges its high environmental importance and its value as a central ecosystem to socioeconomic activities.

Being a terrestrial carbon sink, soil can remove approximately 25% of the carbon emitted by the world’s fossil fuel use each year, which makes soil essential to mitigate climate change. On top of that, soil heath is a global issue with direct environmental, economic and social impacts, and on which many sectors depend. For all these reasons, regenerative agriculture can come as a great solution.

Because of the worrying ecological and biodiversity crisis that soil is undergoing, the EU has already taken action to halt further degradation for this ecosystem by focusing on sustainability.

Hence, the “Farm to Fork” Strategy adopted by the Commission in 2020, aims to ensure the sustainability of the European food system throughout its supply chain, from production to consumption. The Strategy contains concrete goals to achieve by 2030 which include the reduction of pesticides and fertilizers, the reduction of the loss of nutrients, the reduction of antimicrobial sales for farm animals and in aquaculture and the rise of the area cultivated as organic agriculture to 25%, among others.

In addition, the new Soil Strategy, adopted by the European Commission on November of 2021, prioritizes the prevention of soil and land degradation, as well as the restoration of healthy soils by 2050. To ensure this ambition is legally binding, the European Commission announced a new Soil Health Law by 2023. Developing “sustainable soil management” (SSM) practices, in which we find regenerative agriculture[1], is one of the many initiatives and proposals that the strategy considers. It also contemplates the possibility of creating a network of SSM, formed by Member States and other stakeholders, that focuses particularly on organic and regenerative agriculture.

In conclusion, regenerative agriculture stands as a way to improve this sector’s sustainability and environmental impact. It is clear that healthy soils contribute to the mitigation of climate change, and that regenerative agriculture can contribute at the same time to achieve the resilience soils need, as it focuses on their restoration and health. Therefore, it aligns with the objectives of the “Farm to Fork” Strategy, such as improving food quality and reducing pesticide and fertilizers use, for instance.

[1] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions EU. Soil Strategy for 2030 Reaping the benefits of healthy soils for people, food, nature and climate. (p.14).