Should access to phosphorus be a human right?


Source: SciDevNet

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Food is a fundamental human right, as set down by international human rights treaties and, often, national constitutions.But the right to food cannot be ensured without a corresponding right to phosphorus, as some scientists pointed out at the Sustainable Phosphorus Summit 2014 earlier this month in Montpellier, France.The idea of phosphorus as a human right is intriguing. While there are more than a dozen chemical elements that are known to be essential to life, none so far have necessitated a framework to ensure equitable access to all.

But phosphorus is unique. “A first among equals”, as the director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, Stuart White, described it to me, because it is both essential and increasingly scarce.

The value of phosphorus lies in the fact that is it innately entwined with global food security.

The systematic application of phosphorus in the form of phosphate fertilisers was a defining element of the ‘green revolution’, the series of agricultural innovations that boosted food production and helped humanity avoid a Malthusian catastrophe during the last century.

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