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Soil is made up of mineral particles, organic matter, water, air and living organisms, and is a complex, variable and living medium. It's a non-renewable resource which performs many vital functions: food and other biomass production, storage, filtration and transformation of many substances including water, carbon, and nitrogen. All of these functions make soil worthy of protection.

Erosion, loss of organic matter, compaction, salinisation, landslides, contamination, and sealing… all these contribute to accelerating soil degradation, with negative effects on human health, natural ecosystems and climate change, and our economy.

Soil needs to be protected in its own right as it forms the very basis of human activities and of natural ecosystems. It also provides us with food, drinking water and raw materials. As a major carbon store it plays a crucial role in the water cycle.

In 2006, the European Commission adopted a strategy for soil protection in September 2006 and a proposal for an EU soil framework directive. However, due to lack of progress in negotiations in the Council, the Commission decided in May 2014 to withdraw the proposal in order to open the way for an alternative initiative that will enable the EU to meet the commitment set out in the Seventh Environment Action Programme to ensure adequate protection of soil by 2020, notably by reducing soil erosion, remediating contaminated soil and increasing soil organic matter.

The Commission is currently examining options on how to best achieve these objectives.