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Home » Karachi

World Soil Day: Plastic particles enters food chain, environment

December 5, 2018

KARACHI: Urgent action is needed to address soil pollution and contain the multiple threats it poses to global food safety and food security, said FAO in a news release issued from Rome in connection with the World Soil Day.

Thousands of chemicals, which are commercially produced on a large scale, plastic and electronic waste, non-treated wastewater can all become a source of soil pollution, paving the way for the pollutants to enter the food chain with serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of people and planet. “About 33 percent of all soils are degraded – and soils continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate,” said Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo at the World Soil Day Ceremony at FAO’s Rome headquarters. “Soil acts as a filter for contaminants. But when its buffering capacity is exceeded, contaminants can enter the environment and the food chain. This undermines food security by making crops risky and unsafe for consumption”.

“Human activities are the main source of soil pollution. It is in our hands to adopt sustainable soil management practices,” she added.

She called “for greater political support and significantly increased investment towards healthy soils”. Maintaining healthy soils helps ensure safe and nutritious foods and is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Zero Hunger.

This year the World Soil Day theme is “Be the solution to soil pollution”, and FAO offers a number of recommendations on how to reduce the soil contamination at the state, industrial and consumer level.

For example, growing cities are producing mounds of garbage that end up in landfills and enter the soil, up to 80 percent of which could be recycled.

As technological progress accelerates, electronic waste is considered as a new emerging threat to soils. Fifty million tons of e-waste are generated every year, making it one of the world’s fastest growing pollution problems affecting our soils. FAO encourages people to donate or recycle old devices rather than throwing them away.

While agrochemicals can help meet the world’s growing demand for food, they leave a legacy of soil pollution and degraded agroecosystems. Nearly 60 percent of the top agricultural soils in 11 European countries contain residues of multiple persistent pesticides. FAO urges governments to promote the responsible and sustainable management of agrochemicals.

One third of the plastic produced globally ends up in our soils with plastic particles then entering the food chain and the environment.Stronger environmental policies and regulations are needed to prevent the use of excessive packaging and chemicals by industry. However, each and every person can also contribute to solving the problem by simply carrying a reusable bottle and grocery bag, and buying products with reduced or recycled packaging.

FAO today also presented the key results of its first ever economic assessment of the impact of soil erosion and soil nutrient loss. The study which was conducted under a pilot project in Malawi funded by the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment initiative, allows for a better understanding of the economic damages incurred by soil loss.

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