Regarding the 2015 The International Year of Soils
2015: The International Year of Soils Without Oil
Contact: Miguel Robles
Biosafety Alliance, Project Director
A LETTER TO THE UNITED NATIONS FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION COMMITTEE ON SOILS
AND OTHER INTERESTED ORGANIZATIONS:
We, The Biosafety Alliance on behalf of the Soil Not Oil Coalition, write to congratulate you on the concept of “2015 The International Year of Soils” and applaud all those who had a role in developing this critically important concept.
We are living at a critical time, with three monumental challenges before us: climate change, explosive population growth, and major non-sustainable petroleum and synthetic chemical-based agricultural practices. These challenges place tremendous stresses upon soil health, biodiversity, sustainability, food production, and food security. All these stresses threaten the ability of governments to secure the fundamental human rights to food and health enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and other documents of international law. For us, the phrase, “The Year of Soils” does not fully recognize or accommodate these complex, multifaceted, and interrelated problems that need to be addressed to avoid future chaos. With this letter we ask for you to expand the theme of the year to reflect these timely challenges on our food system, and to name this year: 2015 The International Year of Soils Without Oil.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization recently recognized that soils are in danger worldwide due to expanding cities, deforestation, unsustainable land management practices and climate change.
We believe that learning how to achieve healthy soils with sustainable food production for future generations while mitigating or even reversing climate change effects are interwoven and profoundly challenging issues that require further consideration. Furthermore, any discussion that promotes “healthy soil” must include the dominant challenging issues of what makes soils unhealthy, e.g., the use of petroleum-based and synthetic chemicals associated with agriculture practiced by industrialized nations. These chemicals destroy biodiversity, reduce sustainability and exacerbate climate change effects by destroying natural biological processes that make significant carbon sequestration possible on a large scale.
A recent United Nations report revealed that the current system of food production represents 33% of our total contribution to climate change. According to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, “Agriculture has changed more in the past two generations than it did in the previous 12,000 years. Unfortunately for us, almost every single aspect of our modern industrial system creates greenhouse gas emissions.” Industrial agricultural practices not only involve unsustainable, high energy inputs that generate excessive carbon dioxide emissions, but also use chemicals that destroy carbon sequestration processes that could slow, or according to some experts, reverse net carbon dioxide production.
Sustainable soils can be a significant sink for carbon dioxide and other small, heat-trapping molecules causing climate change. Healthy, sustainable, biodiverse plant species and crop rotations yield 90-92% of conventional farming production and demand lower energy inputs. Numerous other studies also demonstrate that an agricultural system based on fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals is not necessary to sustain high crop outputs.Soil health and conditions optimal for carbon sequestration under dramatically changing climate conditions requires knowledge of soil biology and adaptive processes that we are only beginning to understand in depth. While we need further research to improve the effectiveness of our efforts, we also have a body of information and practice that allows us to begin immediately restoring billions of acres of degraded land worldwide without “cheap” and destructive petrochemical-based methods.
The longer we continue to practice ecologically destructive petrochemical and GMO-based monoculture, the less soil will be able to meet food demand and mitigate impacts of climatic changes. These agricultural methods have already led to increasing pesticide use, selection for superweeds and superinsects resistant to pesticides, continental spread of environmental pollutants, and deleterious effects on beneficial non-target soil invertebrates and pollinators. To reiterate, petroleum-based, industrial agriculture is not a strategic part of any solution for promoting soil health, carbon sequestration, and sustainable food production. We therefore encourage you to reframe the theme of 2015 to more accurately reflect this reality, and change the campaign to: 2015: The International Year of Soils Without Oil.
We are in the early stages of planning an international conference entitled “Soil Not Oil: A Strategy for Sustainability and Reversing Global Warming” scheduled for September 4-5, 2015, in the city of Richmond, California and the “Soil Not Oil Mass March” on September 6th in San Francisco. Confirmed and tentative speakers for the conference include Vandana Shiva, Adelita San Vicente Tello, Miguel Altieri, Naomi Klein, Ignacio Chapela, John Wick, Winona LaDuke, Devon Pena, and Ramon J. Seidler. We hope you will stay tuned for our upcoming promotional materials.
Soil Not Oil Coalition which includes:
Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Center for Biological Diversity
Ramon J. Seidler, EPA Senior Scientist (retired)
California State Grange
Center for Farmworker Families
Communities for a Better Environment
Community to Community
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
Factory Farming Awareness Coalition
Food Democracy Now
Food & Water Watch
Friends of the Earth
Organic Consumer Association
Seed Freedom Movement
Semillas de Vida
South Central Farmers Cooperative
350.org Bay Area