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The BBC's Robert Pigott
"It is calling on the government to increase grants for organic farming"
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Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 06:52 GMT 07:52 UK
Organic farms 'benefit wildlife'
Organic farm
Organic farming: Best for beasties?
Organic farming supports more wildlife than conventional methods with greater numbers of birds, plants and other species, a report claims.

A lengthy series of studies has found that chemical-free farming systems support substantially higher levels of wildlife than equivalent conventionally managed farms.

The Soil Association claims the research provides the first comprehensive evidence that wildlife benefits from "non-industrial" farming methods.

By increasing our organic production we can benefit both our own wildlife and our beleaguered farming community

Baroness Young

Their findings combine the results of nine major biodiversity studies carried out over the last 13 years in the UK and Denmark.

The results will undoubtedly fuel calls for wider use of organic farming methods to help reverse drastic reductions in numbers of once-common farmland birds like the skylark and the lapwing.

Consumer pressure

Environment Minister Michael Meacher will officially announce the results at a news conference on Thursday, at the Groucho Club, central London, hosted by Soil Association president Jonathan Dimbleby.

Baroness Young
Baroness Young: Support for farmers
Chairman of English Nature, Baroness Young of Old Scone, said: "We know that in the past intensive farming practices have dramatically reduced the wildlife in our countryside.

"We also know that organic farming...has great potential to increase both the distribution and number of farmland plants and animals like the corn buttercup and the skylark that should be common in our countryside."

She said UK consumers have demonstrated their willingness to buy organic food, although most is currently imported.

Financial support

"Imported organic food does not help either British wildlife or British farmers," she said.

"By increasing our organic production we can benefit both our own wildlife and our beleaguered farming community.

"We must have the political will and government support to enable farmers who wish to convert to do so."

Organic farming still only occupies about 3% of the UK agricultural area.

Baroness Young said English Nature wants that figure increased, but added that it will continue to support conventional farmers who are committed to the wildlife on their farms.

"Not all farmers will be able, or would want, to convert to organic production and it remains important for every farmer to be taking direct action, through agri-environment schemes and other measures to encourage wildlife back on to their farms," she said.

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12 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
Farmland birds in crisis
03 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Organic food 'proven' healthier
04 Jan 00 | Talking Point
Will you go organic in 2000?
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