Endorsement by Safer Phosphates of the International Code of Conduct for the Sustainable Use and Management of Fertilizers

In Spring 2020, the Global Soil Partnership discussed the implementation of the FAO’s International Code of Conduct for the Sustainable Use and Management of Fertilizers following its endorsement at the 41st session of the FAO Conference in 2019.

The Fertilizer Code was indeed developed in response to a request by the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) for FAO to strengthen its work on food safety and the safe use of fertilizers and pesticides. It also responded to the third UN Environment Assembly (UNEA3) declaration on soil pollution and supported the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management (VGSSM).

In this context, the Code aims to guarantee an effective and efficient use of fertilizers and address issues of global importance including:

- Global food production and food security;
- The preservation of fundamental ecosystem services
- The maximization of economic and environmental benefits;
- The reduction of negative impact of excess nutrients in ground and surface waters;
- The minimization of negative effects and potential toxicity of contaminants in fertilizers;
- The improvement of food safety, diets, nutritional quality and human health.

On this basis, it notably highlights the importance of establishing evidence-based maximum limits for contaminants from fertilizers in soils (for example heavy metals), above which trade and use of fertilizer should be controlled due to high probability of soil contamination (Article 3.5.6).

It additionally calls upon governments to be responsible for regulating the composition and quality of fertilizers in terms of heavy metals linked to production processes and sources of raw material based on latest scientific information, global cooperation, international standards and best practices (Article 6.3.1.). Such a way forward should be undertaken in partnership with the fertilizer industry and other relevant stakeholders who are at the centre of this problematic and as such are best placed to provide first-hand information and experience to enable practical and sustainable solutions.

Indeed, in parallel to the European regulatory framework limiting heavy metal in mineral fertilizers, Safer Phosphates and its Members fully support the FAO’s Fertilizer Code which provides further evidence of the global growing interest in the safety and purity of fertilizers. In this context, significant opportunities exist to increase the substitution of heavy-metal products with other products by notably fostering the use of low heavy-metal mines which can contribute to the diversity of supply of low heavy-metal fertilizers.

Implementing and fostering these standards is at the core of Safer Phosphates’ mission. In creating this platform, its members have joined forces in underlining the key role of phosphate-based fertilizer as a key tool in increasing crop yields and maintaining food security all the while developing products that meet the highest environmental standards.

This mission aims to not only inform the global community of the problems of soil degradation and the risks to human health entailed by the use of fertilizers with high levels of toxic impurities such as cadmium, but also to proactively uphold this aim by providing supportive means to improve farmers’ skills in terms of sustainable soil management.

Secretary General of Safer Phosphates