8 May 2001
‘Extinction threat from farming’

By Isabel Davies

MANY plants and animals will become extinct unless new ways are found to feed people and protect wild species, claims a report by environmentalists.

Biodiversity is at risk because of the worlds growing population, according to research by the World Conservation Union and US-based Future Harvest.

Half of the worlds 17,000 major nature reserves intended to protect wildlife from extinction are being heavily used for agriculture, says the report.

Given that clearing and using land for agriculture is the chief cause of biodiversity extinction, the finding is “alarming”, claim researchers.

Report author Jeffrey McNeely said the report showed that agriculture and biodiversity were inextricably linked.

Fencing off ground to protect species was not the answer, he added.

“To avert widespread extinctions and feed the world, we must integrate biodiversity preservation into all landscapes,” said Mr McNeely.

Countries should adopt a new approach – which Mr McNeely described as eco-agriculture- to integrate biodiversity preservation into all landscapes.

Productivity on lands already being farmed should be increased to reduce further conversion of land to agriculture, he said.

Mr McNeelys co-author Sara Scherr said many new approaches involved with eco-agriculture would require a change of mindset for many farmers.

“For centuries, farmers have generally done their best to clear land of natural vegetation and keep wildlife off their farms. That was the sign of a good farmer.

“Now we are asking farmers to let some of the wild back in,” she said.