FAO Regional Representative calls for more action to safeguard the world’s soil resources

30 July 2018, Buenos Aires – Improving the health of the world’s soils is essential to produce nutritious and accessible food for all, FAO Regional Representative Julio Berdegué told Agriculture Ministers during last week’s G20 agricultural ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Noting that approximately one-third of the Earth’s soil is degraded, Berdegué praised the decision to make soil management one of the central themes of the G20.

“Soil degradation not only affects the production of healthy and nutritious food; it also increases food price volatility and forces people off the land and into distress migration,” the FAO Representative said.

He urged G20 countries to “play a greater role” in the Global Soil Partnership in which FAO works with governments and other partners to build technical capacity and exchange knowledge regarding soil health. The Global Soil Partnership has also been important for discussing and approving the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management, Berdegué added.

Ending malnutrition requires sustainable soil management

The FAO Representative reminded the meeting’s participants that Sustainable Development Goal 2 does not only call for the eradication of hunger, but also the eradication of all forms of malnutrition, including overweight and obesity.

Currently, nearly 2 billion people in the world are overweight, and this figure includes approximately 700 million obese people.

“To end all forms of malnutrition, we need to transform our food systems to offer healthy, nutritious and accessible food for everyone, while preserving natural resources and biodiversity.

This transformation includes the sustainable management of soils. Soils are a strategic resource for sustainable agriculture and healthy food production,” Berdegué said.

He pointed to a report: Food security and nutrition: Challenges for agriculture and the hidden potential of soil, produced by FAO with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other partners. The report was submitted to the G20 Argentinian Presidency in response to the Presidency’s request for information on future trends and challenges faced by global agriculture, with a special focus on the role of soils in promoting food security and the measures that could be undertaken to facilitate sustainable soil management.

The report contains recommendations to G20 members on international and national initiatives, including those linked to soil organic carbon, soil health and soil fertility and mitigating and managing soil pollution.

It also calls on G20 members to promote sustainable farm and soil management practices that are tailored to specific soil types and to country needs, and address soil degradation by prevention and restoration/rehabilitation of degraded soils.

Food loss and waste

In his address to the G20 Agriculture Ministers Meeting, Berdegué also underscored the importance to curb food loss and waste and cited FAO’s important role in the SAVE FOOD initiative and also pointed to the G20 platform against food loss and waste which is being implemented by FAO and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

“The platform has been very useful to disseminate good practices and improve (food loss and waste) measurements in many countries,” Berdegué said.

Food safety and G20 support for CODEX

Referring to other areas of cooperation, the FAO Regional Representativeurged G20 countries to offer more support to the work FAO does with the World Health Organization in the Codex Alimentarius, which produces science-based standards to protect consumer health and guarantee fair food trade practices.

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