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Towards Zero pollution: Launch of the Global Assessment of Soil Pollution report

Soil pollution may be invisible to the human eyes, but it compromises soil capacity to provide ecosystems services, including the production of safe, nutritious and sufficient food. Contaminants move through soil, air and water and enter into agri-food systems, affecting the environment and harming our health. Soil pollution is a global transboundary problem and requires coordinated and joint actions to be prevented and solved.

Soil pollution is a chemical degradation process that consumes fertile soils, with implications for global food security and human health. Soil pollution hampers the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including achieving zero hunger, ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives and human well-being, halting and reversing land degradation and biodiversity loss, and making cities safe and resilient.  Most contaminants originate from human activities and enter into the environment because of unsustainable production chains, consumption patterns or inappropriate waste disposal practices.

In May 2018, FAO and its Global Soil Partnership (GSP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) organized the Global Symposium on Soil Pollution (GSOP18) to bring together science and policy to understand the status, causes, impacts and solutions to soil pollution. The Outcome document of the symposium, ‘Be the solution to soil pollution’ paved the way to the implementation of a coordinated set of actions to #StopSoilPollution.

Ahead of the GSOP18, the 2017 UN Environment Assembly at its 3rd session (UNEA-3) recognized soil pollution as one of the major challenges of our time  and approved the Resolution 3/6 on ‘Managing soil pollution to achieve sustainable development’. Adopted by 177 countries, this resolution called on Member States to take action to address soil pollution. In particular, the document solicited relevant UN organizations (FAO, GSP, ITPS, WHO, UNCCD) to prepare a report based on available scientific information and data on the extent and future trends of soil pollution by UNEA-5. This report considers both point source contamination and diffuse pollution, and detail also the risks and impacts of soil pollution on human health, the environment and food security, without neglecting soil degradation and the burden of disease resulting from exposure to polluted soil.

The Global Assessment of Soil Pollution report and its Summary for Policy makers


It will make a valuable contribution to raising awareness of the threats posed by soil pollution and to aligning several international policy frameworks, including the SDGs and multilateral environmental agreements. Furthermore, preventing, addressing, and remediating soil pollution will be critical to the success of the recently declared UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), the upcoming Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and the One Health approach.

It is time to reconnect with our soils. Soil pollution should no longer be a hidden reality as it jeopardizes our efforts to reach sustainable development for all.


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