Rush to buy East-European farms threatens wildlife

28 October 1998

Rush to buy East-European farms threatens wildlife

By Philip Clarke, Europe Editor

FARMERS buying land in central and eastern Europe pose a serious environmental threat, it was claimed yesterday (Tuesday).

Many UK farmers over recent years have been lured to countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic by the promise of cheap land and easy profits.

But the intensification of agriculture in those countries is having a devastating effect on the environment and wildlife, warned Graham Wynne, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

“There is a wonderful degree of western arrogance that everything we export will be beneficial,” Mr Wynne told a conference in London.

The past 25 years has seen the number of tree sparrows fall by 89% in the UK. The number of song thrushes has fallen by 73%.

Mr Wynne said the decline in bird populations was symptomatic of what was happening in the wider environment. And he urged farmers to avoid repeating the same mistakes in central Europe.

“We are not saying that modernisation of agriculture in central Europe is a bad thing, nor that we should resist it,” he said. “But the sheer scale of destruction weve seen in the west should be avoidable.”

Some western farmers with land in central Europe are fully aware of their responsibilities to the environment, however.

Chris Graf Grote, who farms in Poland and the Czech Republic, said his managers were well trained and held UK-recognised qualifications in environmental farming practices.

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