Daily News Archive
Farming Benefits Wildlife
(Beyond Pesticides, October 29, 2004) New research shows
that organic farming increases biodiversity, and is beneficial to wildlife
at all levels of the food chain, from bacteria to mammals, according
Scientist. The study “Does Organic Farming Benefit Biodiversity?,”
published in Biological
Conservation (volume 122, page 113), is the largest review ever
done of studies from around the world comparing organic and conventional
Researchers reviewed data from Europe, Canada, New Zealand and the US.
In more than 50 comparisons it was usually true, although not universally,
that organic farms had more individual wild animals and/or plants, such
as birds, bats, insects and wildflowers, and also some declining species
such as skylark. The research concluded that there were three main reasons
non-use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides;
sympathetic management of non-cropped habitats such as hedges, ditches
a greater tendency for organic farms to be mixed livestock and arable
Mixed farms often
provide the mosaic of different habitats that wildlife needs to thrive
in the farmed environment. For example, lapwings - a species of bird
- nest on spring-sown crops, but raise their chicks on pasture. Intensive
agriculture has been blamed for the 80% decline in lapwing numbers in
England and Wales since the 1960s, according to New Scientist.
It is interesting to note that the research was performed by groups
from two independent organizations with no vested interested in organic
farming: English Nature, a government agency which champions wildlife
conservation, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Critics of study’s
conclusions say that conventional farms that use pesticides may help
wildlife flourish as well, and that farmers who opt for organic may
have already leaned toward environmental practices, and that perhaps
biodiversity was higher than average before conversion to organic.
While the study
did not encompass these topics, other research has shown biodiversity
is affected by heightened pesticide use in fields of genetically engineered
(GE) crops. A three-year study published in 2003, led by the British
government, showed that farmland wildlife is harmed by the extra-powerful
herbicides used with GE crops. (See Daily
News story). GE crops are not allowed in organic farming. Unfortunately,
there are no labeling regulations for GE foods, so the only way for
a consumer to know if a product is GE-free is to buy organic.
TAKE ACTION: Support organic farmers by buying
USDA certified organic products.
Lobby your supermarket to label GE
food. Voice your concerns to your U.S.
Senators and U.S.
Representative, U.S.EPA Administrator Michael
Leavitt, and USDA Secretary Ann