World Soil Day: Protect our soils against pesticides to protect our future



The health of our soils, this exceptionally high source of biodiversity, is threatened by human activities more than ever and the use of pesticides destroys soil life and depletes nutrient content. On the World Soil Day, Pesticide Action Network Europe sends out a clear message: “by protecting our soils we protect life on earth” and calls EU policy-makers to enforce sustainable agricultural practices in Member States to protect our ‘source of life’. The future of EU agriculture is here at stake.

A recent study that evaluated over 300 European agricultural top soils confirmed the ubiquity of life-threatening agrochemicals. More than 80% of the samples analysed contained pesticides, with nearly two-thirds having multiple residues. The samples contained 43 different pesticides in total, in some cases up to 13 pesticides in one sample. Glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA, metabolites of DDT (banned 30 years ago) as well as fungicides, were the most prevalent compounds. The authors of the same study concluded that “mixtures of pesticide residues in soils are the rule rather than the exception.” This is of extreme concern, due to the fact that the “cocktail effect” of such chemicals is not regulated at all.

The presence of these residues in the pedosphere disturbs nutrient cycles, affects the metabolism of living organisms, but most importantly, those substances transform soils from a source of life to a sterile habitat. In the absence of beneficial organisms, farmers have no other option than to use high quantities of fertilizers and pesticides. The fundamental levels of entire trophic webs are virtually massacred. In turn, as recent studies indicate, the very existence of pollinators, beetles or even birds is threatened.

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