Wildlife benefit from organic

A SCIENTIFIC REVIEW has shown that organic farming is better for wildlife than conventional farming.

The review, conducted by the government‘s wildlife adviser English Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, argues that “the intensification and expansion of modern agriculture is among the greatest current threats to worldwide biodiversity”.

“During the next 50 years, global agricultural expansion threatens to impact worldwide biodiversity on an unprecedented scale that may rival climate change in its significance,” according to the study.

In response the NFU said that the real picture was not as clear or definitive as had been claimed.

It pointed out that the research on which the review was based came with so many caveats that it was difficult to draw any firm conclusions from it.

NFU deputy president Peter Kendall said: “Such scaremongering, based upon pretty flimsy evidence, only serves to undermine the partnerships needed to achieve real progress.

“The NFU is fully behind organic farming and recognises the benefits it can bring.”

“Farmers in both the organic and non-organic sectors are making real progress in tackling the environmental issues we all face.”

EN and RSPB scientists examined evidence from 76 different studies comparing the amount of wildlife on organic and non-organic farms.

The scientists found that the organic farms had a greater diversity of wild animals and plants from birds, butterflies, bats and beetles to wild flowers.

The research concluded that there were three main reasons why organic farming encouraged wildlife to a greater extent than conventional farming: Non-use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides; sympathetic management of non-cropped habitats such as hedges, ditches and ponds; and a greater tendency for organic farms to be mixed livestock and arable enterprises.

The study also found that organic management provided a clear advantage over agri-environment schemes since the farm as a whole – rather than just limited areas – was subjected to organic standards.