The challenging year 2020 has come to an end. As Secretariat of the Safer Phosphates Coalition – the only voice of the clean fertilisers industry in Europe – I take this opportunity to send everyone my wholehearted wishes for the year ahead, in particular, to clean fertiliser producers and the whole sustainable agriculture value chain in Europe.
Indeed, the previous year was unique due to the unusual circumstances brought about by the pandemic and the resultant health and economic challenges facing the world. However, 2020 has also been synonymous with renewal. For good reason, the European institutions have initiated the most ambitious actions related to agriculture and our food chain.
To achieve the objectives of the Green Deal, announced by the Von der Leyen Commission, the ongoing CAP reform aims to make agriculture greener and more sustainable. Through this proposal, the European institutions once again underline the importance of soil protection, reflected most notably in Article 60, which gives Member States the possibility to choose and select the distribution of CAP funds according to different policies that aim to reward sustainable actions. Safer Phosphates is especially pleased that a flagship eco-scheme covers agroecology and sustainable land management practices, allowing farmers to benefit from financial support for measures aimed at reducing the risks posed by the usage of fertilisers that do not meet high environmental standards.
By the same token, the Safer Phosphates Coalition welcomes the commitment of European Member States to reducing heavy metal pollution in soils. Following three years of intense negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on EU Fertiliser Regulation 2019/1009, a clear declaration to protect arable soil and crops from exposure to certain substances was adopted, as well as new rules limiting the levels of contaminants that an EU Fertiliser product may contain. While the Regulation fell short of the Commission’s original objective to set the strictest limits possible, in line with recommendations from existing studies, we welcome the Commission’s decision to grant Hungary, Slovakia and Denmark derogations to ban fertilisers above certain thresholds of cadmium content (20mg, 20mg and 48mg, respectively).
The Safer Phosphates Coalition calls upon other countries to follow the example of these three countries.
Finally, 2021 will offer the opportunity to go even further. The EU's Farm to Fork strategy, which aims to make food production more sustainable, encouraging the use of less pesticides and less fertilisers (while still ensuring better soil fertility and quality), provides the ideal opportunity to make a sharp distinction between non-contaminated and contaminated fertilisers. Every effort must be made to drastically reduce this second category. Contaminated fertilisers are not only harmful to the environment and biodiversity, but also endanger human health and the most vulnerable part of the European population.
In the face of these upcoming deadlines, we are determined to continue our fight in promoting cleaner fertilisers and, subsequently, a cleaner food chain, from farm to fork.