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FOCUS - Human rights N. 3 - 16/09/2013

 Agricultural use of land as A Global public Good

Soil quality and land sustainable use are quite recent concerns both in international and European policies, despite their natural connection with several traditional fields of supranational environmental law. Indeed, human wellbeing and the Global (as well as, more specifically, European) economy are highly dependent on a multitude of critical ecosystem services and soil functions. In fact, soil is a biological engine which sustains life and regulates a number of essential ecosystem cycles. It provides and/or preserves biodiversity, it involves the fight against global-warming, it is a filter storing waters and neutralizing pollutants, it contributes to the maintenance of geological and architectural patrimonies. Moreover, it is also able to affect international economic relations, being a source of food, minerals and other riches. Despite its undeniable importance, soil protection is a fragmented and quite neglected discipline, that has raised a merely indirect interest at international level so far. Indeed, as we will see hereinafter, we cannot find, at present, any international binding instrument, endowed with universal effectiveness, specifically referred to soil. The situation does not change at European level: unlike air, sea and freshwaters, there is no EU legislation specifically targeting soil protection or fixing limits and conditions for agricultural land exploitation. As a consequence, the efforts put in place by the European Commission and the EU legislators are fragmented in bits and pieces of a metaphorical modernist puzzle, spread all over several supranational policies defined by the Treaties... (segue)

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