On Wednesday, participants in the Global Symposium on Soil Pollution (GSOP18) met in a plenary session to hear opening remarks, presentations setting the scientific scene for GSOP18, keynote and invited speakers, as well as reports from regional soil partnerships. Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources, FAO, emphasized that healthy soils make healthy foods, noting that soils are responsible for 95% of global food production and a quarter of the world’s biodiversity.
Illar Lemetti, Deputy Minister of Rural Affairs, Estonia, noted the role of waste in releasing harmful chemicals in soil, water, and air, affecting our ability to live healthy lives. Niu Dun, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China to FAO, shared China’s activities on soil pollution and efforts on soil contamination remediation and prevention. Carlos Martin-Novella, Deputy Executive Secretary, Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions (BRS Conventions), highlighted increased environmental pressures due to population growth, noting that in order to achieve SDG 12.4 (environmentally sound management of chemicals and wastes), increased international coordination and action will be needed.
Astrid Schomaker, Director, Global Sustainable Development, European Commission, lamented that soil pollution is not high in the international policy agenda and stressed the need for further research, especially on emerging contaminants, including micro-plastics, nano-materials and anti-microbial resistance. Noting that the meeting has attracted more than 500 participants from 100 countries, René Castro Salazar, Assistant Director-General, Climate, Biodiversity, Land, and Water Department, FAO, introduced the Symposium, presenting its objectives, structure, and expected outcome.
Highlights of the day also included:
- Launching of the book “Soil pollution: a hidden reality” that has been developed within the GSOP18 framework, identifying the main knowledge gaps and serving as a basis for future discussions
- Presentations from invited speakers on the four Symposium themes
- Five keynote presentations, providing rich information on different aspects of soil pollution
- Six regional soil partnership reports, revealing realities on the ground at the regional level
- Luca Montanarella, Chair, Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS), highlighted the 2017 Global Assessment of the Impact of Plant Protection Products on Soil Functions and Soil Ecosystems, the first contribution towards GSOP18 as part of the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management
In the evening, participants attended a poster session, in parallel with an interpretative dance on soil pollution, followed by a cocktail reception.
René Castro Salazar, Assistant Director-General, Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department, FAO, and Eduardo Mansur, Director, Land and Water Division, FAO ©FAO
Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources, FAO ©FAO
Illar Lemetti, Deputy Minister of Rural Affairs, Estonia ©FAO
Astrid Schomaker, Director, Global Sustainable Development, European Commission ©FAO
Dun Niu, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China to FAO ©FAO
Carlos Martin-Novella, Deputy Executive Secretary, Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions ©FAO
Marco Martuzzi, European Centre for Environment and Health, WHO ©FAO
Mette Wilkie, Director, Ecosystems Division, UN Environment ©FAO
Steve McGrath, Rothamsted Research, UK ©FAO
Melisa Lim, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions ©FAO
Ravi Naidu, University of Newcastle, Australia ©FAO
Roland Weber, Independent Consultant ©FAO
Esperanza Huerta Lwanga, Wageningen University and El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico ©FAO
Christina Siebe Grabach, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico ©FAO
Lena Ma, University of Florida, US ©FAO
Michael McLaughlin, University of Adelaide, Australia ©FAO
David Ingram, US Food and Drug Administration ©FAO
Violette Geissen, Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands ©FAO
Lucia Buvém, Network for the Management of Industrially Contaminated Land in Europe (NICOLE), Belgium ©FAO
Talal Darwish, National Council for Scientific Research, Lebanon ©FAO
Esther Goidts, Ministry of the Environment of Walloon Region, Belgium ©FAO
Dietmar Müller-Grabherr, Environment Agency Austria, Austria ©FAO