Mr von Westenholz was responding to a recently published study by Oxford University which claims that organic farms support up to 34% more plants and animal species than conventional farms.
Mr von Westenholz said that the Oxford study showed a range of complementary practices are needed when farming for the benefit of wildlife, and that organic techniques certainly have their part to play. However, he pointed to another recent study from the University of Southampton, which compared farmland bird numbers across different approaches to conservation farming. The study showed that organic farms provided significantly less infield habitat types compared to Entry Level Stewardship and Conservation Grade schemes, both of which demonstrated far higher levels of bird species richness than their organic counterparts. The research concluded that threatened farmland birds are likely to survive the winter better on conventional farms with specially designed wildlife habitats than on organic farms without.
"The fact that both ELS and CG allow conventional pesticide use in their protocols demonstrates that it is a focus on farm-scale management, adopting techniques and technologies suitable to the conservation goals of individual farms, and not broad-brush restrictions that lead to biodiversity benefits.
"Pesticides are an integral part of a modern, productive farming system which aims to minimise pest damage and improve yields, while contributing to a sustainable system that protects the environment. Claims that their use undermines wildlife-friendly farming simply ignore the evidence. Some of the best examples of conservation farming in the UK take a conventional approach that includes pesticides - both in growing crops and in managing land for biodiversity and the environment. What is important is to recognise the need to increase biodiversity across the landscape in ways that do not threaten the UK's food security."
Notes for Editors
For more information on the Oxford University study, 'Organic methods could go some way towards halting the continued loss of diversity in industrialised nations' got to:http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2014/140204.html
For more information on the Southampton University Study, 'Testing the delivery of conservation schemes for farmland birds at the farm-scale during winter, in Southern lowland England' go to: