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June 27th, 2017 / FAO, Italy

Soil pollution, due mostly to human activities that leave excess chemicals in soils used to grow food, took centre stage at the 5th Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Plenary Assembly held at FAO headquarters this week.

Excess nitrogen and trace metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury can impair plant metabolism and cut crop productivity, ultimately putting pressure on arable land. When they enter the food chain, such pollutants also pose risks to food security, water resources, rural livelihoods and human health.

“Soil pollution is an emerging problem, but, because it comes in so many forms, the only way we can reduce knowledge gaps and promote sustainable soil management is to intensify global collaboration and build reliable scientific evidence,” said Ronald Vargas, a FAO soils officer and Secretary of the GSP.

“Combating soil pollution and pursuing sustainable soil management is essential for addressing climate change,” said Rattan Lal, President of the International Union of Soil Sciences, in his keynote address to the Plenary Assembly. Tackling human-caused problems through sustainable practices will mean “more change will happen between now and 2050 than during the 12 millennia since the onset of agriculture,” he added. Read more