The European plan to clean up contaminated soil is under fire as soon as it is presented

The European plan to clean up contaminated soil is under fire as soon as it is presented

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans (left) and European Commissioner Virginius Sienkiewicz in Brussels on Wednesday.Photo by Olivier Matisse/EPA

The plan is immediately under fire. For example, a coalition of companies, including Unilever, Nestlé and Danone, believes the plans are not ambitious enough to not have hard commitments. But the European Commission, already grappling with political resistance to all green plans, is walking on eggshells. An earlier attempt to introduce soil-specific legislation, in 2006, failed when France and Germany, among others, failed.

So the new proposal makes it easier: First, define what unhealthy soil actually is, and make agreements about how that will be measured and how progress can be monitored. “The authorities and landowners can then take action to improve conditions so that the soil can perform its vital functions,” European Commissioner Virginius Sinkiewicz (environment) said Wednesday afternoon. He would later respond to questions that “the political landscape and what is acceptable to member states” was also very important.

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Martin Keulemans, Science Editor De Volkskrant, specializing in microlife, climate, archeology and genetic engineering. He was named Journalist of the Year for his reporting on the Coronavirus.

The Soil Act is part of a wide range of nature restoration plans and bills, including the Nature Restoration Act. For example, the Commission wants to hold textile manufacturers accountable for reducing the massive apparel mountain of 12.6 million tons of textile waste annually. Reuse and recycling should become the norm.

The Commission also wants to put an end to the nearly 59 million tonnes of food that EU citizens throw away each year. In 2023, food waste in production and processing must be reduced by 10 percent, and by 30 percent in shops, restaurants and households. The goals the authority believes it can achieve with information, better agreements, and smarter redistribution of surplus food.

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Genetically modified crops

Pièce de résistance, also a concession of Conservative and Christian Democrat groups, is the new rule the Commission wants to announce on genetically modified crops. And as far as the body is concerned, plants processed with modern microtechnologies such as the Crispr-Cas DNA cut and paste method can be immediately commercialized from now on. A sensitive topic, especially in GMO-shy countries like Austria and Germany.

Sinkevičius and the Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, immediately tried to win souls for the Soil Law. Sinkevičius has argued that poor soil costs the economy more than €50 billion annually, while drought costs an additional €9 billion. If the soil quality decreases, the moisture content also decreases. This has led to the situation that desertification is a real possibility in many Member States.

Tree bombing

Meanwhile, Timmermans offered the carrot: The soil law would mean “a lot of good news for citizens, farmers, and businesses.” Restored soil—the Timmermans like to talk about “healing” soil—captures more carbon, can withstand flooding better and is good for biodiversity and harvesting. Hence the “magic dress” of Synephius: “The soil can do all these things at once, without us even noticing.”

Timmermans expressed his sympathy for the 51-year-old Dutch woman who was killed by a tree during Boli storm Wednesday morning. Moving on to politics at the same time: “Those events are obviously linked to climate change. If we need to feel the urgency to take action, I think we just need to look outside.

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