The European Commission has launched an online public consultation on proposed legislation focused on soil health.

The EU Soil Strategy for 2030, which was adopted last November, set a target to have all EU soils in a healthy condition by 2050.

The EU strategy, which is a key objective of the European Green Deal, aims to reduce the overall use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% and the use of more hazardous pesticides by 50% by 2030.

It also included a proposal for a legal framework for soil, granting it the same level of protection which currently exists for water, air and the marine environment.

The EU is seeking a broad range of views on the proposed legislation, including from farmers; foresters; industry; national governments; and local authorities.

The online public consultation will remain open until October 24, 2022.

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius said:

“The way we use land is decisive. It can either compromise or foster progress in halting biodiversity loss and climate change.

“It is also more and more evident how healthy soils are crucial for food security and safety in the EU and beyond.

“Action for soil protection is a prominent feature in the European Green Deal and at the heart of our European and international agendas,” Sinkevicius added.

Soils host more than a quarter of the world’s biodiversity, are the largest terrestrial carbon pool on the planet and play a key role in the circular economy and adaptation to climate change.

However, up to 70% of EU soil ecosystems are unhealthy and suffering from degradation, which costs the EU around €50 billion annually.

According to the European Environment Agency, over 500km2 of agriculture or natural land disappear every year in the EU.

The EU outlined that reversing this trend could provide an annual global economic benefit of €1.2 trillion.