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Why soils matters

- A european perspective

There is today a debate within the international community

as to how to re-launch agriculture, how to increase the

ability of agriculture to satisfy a growing demand for agricul-

tural products. The first approach is the classic, conventional

approach which insists on using more external inputs.

Agroecology is the other approach, which recognizes the

natural interaction between plants, trees, animals...

Rather than simplifying nature, this means recognising the

complexity of nature and adapting agricultural practices to

this complexity, to play with nature as an ally rather than

reducing it to a chemical formula.’

Olivier de Schutter

- The Green Revolution leads to pollution as a result of nitrogen run-off. The

pollution of waters leads in some cases to algal blooms and, dead zones

(e.g, in the Gulf of Mexico), with fish stocks being depleted as a result.

- This approach leads to a high level of GHG emissions, due to the use of

nitrogen-based fertilisers. It is a very dangerous gas contributing to global


- Overuse of pesticides and fertilisers may worryingly affect the biological life

in the soil and reduce the ability for the soil to remain fertile without these


So we are now in a paradoxical situation where we have soil slowly

dying and yet we try to bring them back to life by re-injecting

chemicals. We thereby risk making it even more difficult for the soil

to support biological life.

It is a delicate situation because some soils are simply dead. In order to

re-create biomass you need to inject these chemicals in order then for

agroecological technics to be able to develop.

Proceedings of the Conference