High Level Panel 1: European Commission

Better Stewards Of The Earth:
How Can We Use Soil More Sustainably?

European Commissioner for Agriculture 

Time: Tuesday, 25. January 2022, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (CET)

Context
The virtual High Level Panel is organised by the European Commission, at the invitation of the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture. The conclusions and recommendations of the panel will tie in with the special topic that is the focus of the Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Summit and the GFFA Communiqué in 2022: land use and soil management.

The aim of the conference is to engage key political actors in a debate centred on this key topic. Participants will discuss the importance of the preservation and responsible management of land resources in the context of agriculture and rural development. This is particularly relevant in the context of climate change which, in connection with the increasing demand on agriculture to feed the world’s growing population, is expected to put enormous pressure on existing farming practices. Global soil use standards must be improved in order to avoid land exhaustion as an additional threat to the livelihoods of millions of people all over the world. Better land use will also contribute to strengthening the long-term resilience of agri-food production chains to systemic shocks, whether brought about by pandemics or natural disasters.

 

Main themes
Agricultural production systems are intimately dependent on the soil and its various ecosystem services for growing food. So intimately, in fact, that in many languages, agriculture is literally expressed as ‘working the land’ (c.f. German “Landwirtschaft”). Yet soil health and the sustainable management of land as a natural resource are not sufficiently prioritised when discussing agri-food policy and value chains.

As the global food system is emerging from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, it finds itself at the crossroads of the conflicting needs to, on the one hand, produce more plentiful and more nutritious food for all and, on the other, to step up the protection and preservation of fertile soil as a natural resource for future generations. It is thus not only a balancing act between quality and quantity, but also short-term needs and long-term sustainability.

The world is currently not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 of the UN’s 2030 Agenda: the elimination of hunger and malnutrition around the world by 2030. While this is a challenge impacted by many bottlenecks, from logistics to food loss and waste, the management and sustainable use of agricultural land also has a key role to play in regional food security, particularly as the impact of climate change takes effect.

Food is, however, more than just calories. In order to produce more nutritious food for all, the agricultural sector needs to be able to access and deploy innovative technologies to maintain productivity while ensuring better land management and healthier soils. This may go hand in hand with the revival of traditional crops and farming techniques that are more resilient and better adapted to local conditions, used alongside innovative solutions and best practices shared along the global agri-food value chain.

Against this background, the panellists are invited to focus on the following questions:

  • How can we reconcile more sustainable land use with the world’s growing demand for food?
  • How can food policy contribute to healthier soils?
  • How can research and innovation help the transition towards more sustainable land and soil management?

 

Panel guests will be announced soon.

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