‘Pre-consultation’ for EU Green Paper on Sustainable Phosphorus.

In recent years, there has been mounting awareness that phosphorus is not only essential for agriculture/food production, but that it is also a limited resource, and that new governance measures are required to ensure its use is sustainable. Large, commercially viable phosphorus rock reserves are found in only a few countries, mainly outside the EU.

In the absence of an international governance framework to facilitate trade, EU member states remain import-dependent, with a great degree of unpredictability in the pricing of phosphorus rock and fertiliser. For instance, in 2008, the price of phosphate rock rose by 800% due to a spike in oil price and speculation. This situation creates vulnerabilities for the agricultural-food system and makes phosphorus an important policy question for food security and improved governance.

At the same time, from an environmental standpoint, phosphorus from agricultural runoff and point sources leaches into water bodies and contributes to eutrophication, ‘dead sea bottoms’, and the disappearance of fish species and aquatic animals. These impacts, in turn, have negative effects on the agricultural-food industry, livelihoods and tourism. There are, however, no regulatory targets for phosphorus management within the EU. While HELCOM’s Baltic Sea Action Plan sets targets for phosphorus leaching for BSR countries, these remain voluntary (i.e. no coercive instruments are in place to ensure implementation) and concern exists that the HELCOM platform has not yet inspired a significant commitment from the agricultural sector.

Download the synthesis paper (PDF: 634kb)