Fertilizers Regulation: Food quality starts with fertilization

Written by Martin Häusling on 29 May 2017 in News
News

There are natural ways of bringing soil back to life, argues Martin Häusling.

There are ways to limit cadmium in phosphate fertilizers, says Martin Häusling | Photo credit: Press Association


The new labelling regulation for fertilizers concerns ordinary consumer and environmental interests.

Hence our first concern in this regulation is to limit risks to human health and the environment by providing the best products for our soils and plants.

One issue that has caused disunity among Parliament’s political groups is cadmium levels in mineral fertilizers. Cadmium is a toxic metal found in many degraded rock phosphate fertilizers, which represents ten per cent of the EU fertilizers market.


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Cadmium can cause cancer, infertility and possibly genetic defects in unborn children.

It has been argued that mineral fertilizers, such as phosphate rock, are indispensable for agricultural soil and that 80 mg/kg is an appropriate legal cadmium contaminant limit. However, scientific evidence suggests that this is too high.

This is why our group has demanded limits of 20 mg/kg within six years. Although mineral fertilizers cannot yet be replaced, there are ways to limit cadmium in phosphate fertilizers.

Cadmium contamination of phosphate rock varies; it is low in Russia and Finland but high in North Africa. While higher dependency on Russian fertilizers may not be desirable, blending rocks with phosphoric acid can lower cadmium concentrations.

"This is why our group has demanded limits of 20 mg/kg within six years. Although mineral fertilizers cannot yet be replaced, there are ways to limit cadmium in phosphate fertilizers"

Decadmiation is not an issue; there are existing technologies for removing cadmium from phosphate rock or intermediate products. Some of these are ready to implement or already in use, others are on the verge of full-scale deployment.

Finally, there are natural ways of bringing soil back to life. For example, mycorrhiza fungi, if not destroyed by mineral fertilizers, can nourish plants with phosphorus directly from the soil. Organic farming thus offers an alternative, simply by using what is already present.

Decadmiation is perfectly feasible, given the appropriate political will.

About the author

Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE) is a substitute member of Parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee

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