The soil is poorly understood by many even though it harbours the largest proportion of biodiversity on the planet and the ecosystem services that it provides are essential. It is the basis for plant life, unique in its ability to produce matter from the sun, air, water and the minerals present in the soil. Through biomass, it provides mankind with food and energy, and also with building materials,raw materials and chemicals for medical use. Its functioning is crucial for water and air cycles. Accordingly it regulates water both quantitatively by limiting rainwater run-off and therefore flooding risks, and qualitatively through filtration. Also, as the main storehouse for organic carbon, it helps to limit climate disruption.
The soil faces many threats, such as erosion, artificialisation and various forms of pollution. Yet, despite all of its properties, the soil is not legally protected in its own right.
In France, mixed land-use is leading to increasing tensions. The decrease in available agricultural land is a cause for concern. According to the sources and data used, between 2000 and 2012, this decrease was within an extremely broad range of between 40,000 and 90,000 hectares each year in mainland France alone. However, the goal of using the land more economically is a long-standing one, although it has been difficult to put into practice. The issue of preservation of soil quality has, for its part, been addressed indirectly or incidentally in public policy.
The ESEC takes the view that given the challenges we face in terms of population growth, food production, the environment and the climate, preserving the food-producing capability of agricultural soils in both mainland France and the Overseas Territories and maintaining their agronomic quality (along with the positive externalities they bring) are vital concerns for our society.