Legal Acts on Soil Protection

In the > EU Soil Strategy presented on 17.11.21 for an EU-wide framework for the protection and sustainable use of soil, the EU Commission addresses the various threats to soil and regrets that there is still no EU-wide protection framework for soil as there is for air and water. It announces that it will draft a legislative proposal on soil health by 2023, which I expressly welcome.

Video EU Missions Soil Health and Food

The European Parliament also called for a binding legislative proposal on soil protection in a resolution in spring 2021. Since the beginning of the 2000s, a conservative alliance, strongly steered by the agricultural lobby, has prevented EU-wide legislation on soil protection, which lacks all common sense, was a mistake even then and is completely out of date with regard to current challenges and the goals of the Green Deal.

I hope that in its legislative proposal the Commission will also develop sensible approaches to bring the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) into line with soil and water protection as well as with the biodiversity strategy. There is a great need to catch up here.

The current agricultural reform has again failed to integrate binding, effective regulations on soil protection into the conditions for “good agricultural and environmental condition” (GAEC) for receiving direct payments. This is why we need all the more urgently a European regulatory framework that gives soil protection the same attention and protective position as the protection of air and water!

The adoption of the last attempt at an EU Soil Protection Directive failed most recently in 2010 because of Germany’s “no” vote, mainly due to pressure from the agricultural lobby.

The German Federal Soil Protection Act (BBSchG) does contain a reference to agricultural management in paragraph 17. But here it only refers to “good agricultural practice” and this is still not defined.

The new coalition agreement of of the German Government therefore also stipulates that the BBSchG will be revised.

I support these processes as part of my advisory work at national and European level.

Position papers with recommendations on soil protection

In two recent position papers, which I was involved in drafting, the environmental umbrella organization European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) provide comprehensive recommendations on the design of the planned EU Soil Health Law (SHL).
The EU Commission’s proposal for the protection and sustainable use of European soils is intended to help create healthy soil ecosystems by 2050 and set out concrete measures by 2030.

The NABU position paper is supported by a large number of scientists as well as representatives from agriculture and civil society. The central demand is that the legal definition of soil health must be based on current scientific knowledge and that the biological properties of the soil must be included. In addition, there is a need for a comprehensive monitoring system that also includes biodiversity in soil health. For agriculture, target values must be defined so that the development of the condition can be tracked and possible rules and support instruments can be created. In addition, the management of soils must be based on natural conditions and must not end at administrative borders.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) argues in a similar direction in its new position paper on the Soil Protection Act. The European umbrella organization recommends, among other things, the inclusion of legally binding and measurable targets, clear mechanisms for the restoration of degraded soils and the setting of targets for all land and soil users. Soil conservation practices in agriculture should thus build on and go beyond the basic requirements (conditionality) of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In addition, the legal basis for preventing soil contamination should be improved. Among other measures, the EEB lists the restriction of land consumption as well as obligatory “passports for excavated soil” and “soil health certificates”.

I was involved in the preparation of both papers and support the demands.

You can find my overall offer on soil protection here.

Offer: Agricultural soil protection – laws, initiatives, funding opportunities – lecture or seminar

“Carbon farming” – the EU strategy is supposed to ensure climate protection in agriculture. However, some of the techniques discussed are highly questionable – also from a soil protection perspective….
You can find more about “carbon farming” here.


Beste, A., Lorentz, N. (2022): Ecosystem Soil – Bringing nature-based solutions on climate change
and biodiversity conservation down to earth. (Ed.): giz/BMUV

Beste, A. (2022): GREENWASHING & HIGH TECH – Faking it: (un-)sustainable solutions for agriculture.

Beste, A. (2022): Keynote lecture ‘On the state of soils in Europe’s agriculture’.

Beste, A. (2021): A Soil Scientist’s Perspective – Carbon Farming, CO2 Certification & Carbon Sequestration in Soil.

Beste, A.; Idel, A. (2019): The belief in technology and big data. The myth of climate smart agriculture – why less bad isn’t good.

Beste, A.(2015): Down to Earth – The soil we live off. Study on the state of soil in Europeans agriculture.

Find more info about this.


Buckwell, A., et al.(2022): Sustainable Agricultural Soil Management: What’s stopping it? How can it be enabled? RISE Foundation, Brussels.