However, soil degradation now affects about one-third of global land area with widespread consequences including soil erosion, desertification, nutrient loss and pollution. 
Despite this, soil has scarce protection under EU law leading the People4Soil campaign to launch a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) calling on the Commission to introduce a common framework for soil protection. 
Following a year of hard campaigning by a network of 550 groups from 26 states, the petition closed on 12 September, 2017 with more than 212,000 signatures collected from all EU countries. 
Led by the Environmental Pillar – a coalition of 26 national environmental organisations – the campaign received over 9,100 signatures in Ireland before last week’s deadline, smashing our official target of 8,250.
Not only that, but Ireland was the first country to reach its national quota and achieved the second highest percentage tally behind only Italy.
The campaign made some great strides over the summer with the support of Uplift, Friends of the Earth Ireland, and some of Ireland’s leading organic farmers, chefs and restauranteurs, including Darina Allen and The Happy Pear twins, Dave and Steve Flynn.   
Although the quota was reached in just two countries – Ireland and Italy – the overall number of signatures is clear evidence that soil conservation is important for an increasing number of Europeans.
The Environmental Protection Agency has said that without a Soils Directive it will be extremely challenging to “ensure a consistent approach to protecting and managing our limited soil resource”. 
It is time for the EU to heed this warning and listen to the European people by putting a framework in place that reflects the significance of soil and safeguards a resource that will support our well-being both for now and for future generations.
In a statement, the People4Soil committee said:
“We want Europe to acknowledge soil as its most strategic environmental resource, as it ensures food security, biodiversity conservation and climate change regulation.
“That is why we’ll deliver the signatures to Vice President Frans Timmermans requesting the Commission to put a road map for a Soil Framework Directive among their top priorities.”
Michael Ewing, Coordinator of the Environmental Pillar. added:
“The Environmental Pillar is proud to know that so many Irish people care about the protection of our soil for generations to come.
“Dedicated citizens across the country have highlighted the support out there to protect our soil and ensure healthy soil for clean water, a safe environment, and quality food for our future.
“We also rely on this precious non-renewable resource for storing carbon and preventing floods, an issue all too close to our hearts at this moment in time with the recent flooding in Donegal.
“While the People4Soil campaign may not have reached its overall target of 1 million signatures across Europe, we have shown both the EU and our Government that, we, the Irish people, demand action to protect our soils.
“Let’s take this victory as the starting point to push our politicians to change national policy and to encourage our representatives in the European Parliament to advocate for change in Brussels.”
 Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, ‘Status of the World’s Soil Resources’, 2015: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5199e.pdf
 European citizens have the right to recommend EU legislation via the European Citizens’ Initiative. An ECI is an invitation to the European Commission to propose legislation, and it has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states within 12 months: https://goo.gl/lQG6n
 List of European and Irish partner organisations: https://people4soil.eu/en/partners
 Click link to see the Happy Pear’s Dave & Steve Flynn endorsement: https://goo.gl/NJM8QM
 Click link to see Darina Allen’s video endorsement: https://youtu.be/fqkTE4MVXeQ
 Click link to view and download People4Soil endorsement photos: https://goo.gl/AsW7Ne
 Environmental Protection Agency, ‘State of the Environment Report’, 2016: https://goo.gl/woqGuD