Farmers may be held to account for soil quality, if calls for a soil directive are implemented.
The Environmental Pillar, which represents 29 national environmental NGOs, is calling for a Soil Directive, which would make countries protect soils.
Currently there are similar directives which protections for water, air and nature.
“Protection for soils at European level would see the government have to assess the condition of Ireland’s soils and take action where needed. This could take the form of incentives for farmers to improve soils.”
Klaus Laitenberger of the Environmental Pillar said soil issues are very different throughout Europe. Ireland, he said, has a subtle problem of soil compaction which is building up over the years. "Heavier machines, heavier breeds of cows are all adding to soil pores compacting and limiting the air in soils.
"This has an impact on flooding. Soil compaction has a lot to be blamed for when flooding happens. If you have good soil you can pour a lot of water on it and the soil will absorb it. Soil compaction is a damage that will last for a long, long time."
"The change from farmyard manure to slurry and artificial fertilisers is not good. Artificial give nothing back to the soil, they don't increase the life of the soil."
He said it's partially EU directives that casued the issue and admitted its hard to take that back. "There has always been a divide between forestry and farming. To take land out of farming and turn it into forestry land, we need to combine forestry and farming with tall hedgerows and smaller fields.
"I don't think they will go as far as making everyone farm organically, but our campaign in Ireland is about raising awareness. A quarter of the world's land area has become degraded and unfit for agricultural production while the world population is growing."
The Environmental Pill is looking for 1m signatures from seven different Member States, for a petition on a soil directive. If it gets the 1m signatures the European Commission will have to prepare and propose a Soil Directive.
According to the Environmental Pillar, the degrading of Ireland’s soils is a threat to our ability to produce food now and into the future.
"We rely on soil to provide healthy food, clean water, support wildlife, store carbon, prevent flooding and ultimately maintain livelihoods around the country. But over the last half a century Ireland’s soils have come under increasing pressure from land use changes, intensification of agriculture, erosion and overgrazing, disposal of organic wastes to soils, afforestation, industry and urbanisation.
"Soils are not a renewable resource so when we lose them they are gone. Because of this we need to protect them. We are asking people to sign a petition calling for protection measures to be brought in Ireland and across Europe.