European Parliament votes for law to improve soil health

12 April 2024 | Muriel Cozier

Environmentalists welcome the law but are concerned it does not go far enough.

The European Parliament has adopted its position for the European Union’s first Soil Monitoring Law, which is aimed at seeing that the EU has healthy soils by 2050. A vote in the Parliament saw the proposed law backed by 336 votes.

The new law will oblige EU countries to first monitor and then assess the health of all soils on their territory. MEPs are proposing a five-tier classification system to assess soils health. These tiers are: high, good, moderate ecological status, degraded, and critically degraded. Soils with either good or high ecological status would be considered healthy.

MEPs are also supporting the requirement to draw up a public list of the estimated 2.8 million potentially contaminated sites across the EU. This list must be available no more than four years after the Soil Monitoring Law comes into force. EU countries will also have to investigate, assess, and clean up contaminated sites to address unacceptable risks to human health and the environment. Costs must be paid by polluters in the line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

While the adoption has been widely welcomed, disappointment has been voiced that the European Parliament removed some obligations that had been endorsed by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. Changes included the removal of an obligation to define and implement sustainable soil practices.

Describing the Soil Monitoring Law as ‘long overdue’ Caroline Heinzel, Associate Policy Officer for soil at the European Environment Bureau said that the European Parliament’s final decision to reject crucial obligations was ‘baffling.’ ‘This decision is incomprehensible. With up to 70% of EU soils already degraded urgent action is needed now, but the Parliament risks removing any actionable measures to effectively improve soil health.’


The European Commission estimates that some 60-70% of European soils are in an unhealthy state due to issues such as intensification of agriculture and climate change. In addition, degraded soils are a driver of biodiversity lose.

With the Parliament’s position on the law adopted, the file will be followed up after the European elections which take place 6-9 June.

During 2021, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development launched its Soil Investment Guidance Report. The report focuses on helping food and agriculture companies invest in solutions for healthy soils along their supply chains.

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