22 February 2000
Greens slam Morley’s benchmarks

ENVIRONMENTAL groups have accused the government of being inconsistent in its choice of barometers to gauge the health of the countryside,

On Monday (21 February) junior farming minister Elliot Morley announced that skylark numbers and numbers of organic farms would be among indicators used by the government to measure sustainability.

But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds claimed the indicators revealed a “lack of joined-up thinking in Whitehall”.

Missing were key indicators such as losses of mixed farms and the number of sheep on moors, which could reveal bird declines, said the RSPB.

It also noted that, while the indicators for arable land predicted a 52% increase in irrigation water by 2001, the forthcoming Water Bill will try to reduce water use.

Organic farming organisation The Soil Association joined criticism of the report.

It said the report praised the benefits to the environment from organic farming, yet government support for organics is just £16 million out of a £3bn farming budget.