5 January 2001
Farm assurance ‘no friend to wildlife’

By Isabel Davies in Oxford

MANY of Britains farm assurance schemes lack environmental credentials and are wildlife unfriendly, the Oxford Farming Conference has been told.

Many food production standards and labelling systems are confusing, said Graham Wynne, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Too few schemes have meaningful environmental standards and many overclaim their environmental credentials, he said on Friday (05 January).

Meeting basic environmental legislation should not be used to imply that food from such farming systems is wildlife friendly, Mr Wynne told delegates.

Ultimately, this was a policy that would backfire and damage the credibility of the schemes and the labels associated with them, he suggested.

Mr Wynne suggested a government review should develop consistent food production standards with farmers, retailers, environmental and consumer groups.

Consideration should also be given to applying more stringent standards that delivered greater environmental or wildlife benefits, he added.

This would impose more costs on farmers but the challenge would then be to ensure that these costs were passed onto consumers willing to take them on.