The Biodiversity Benefits of Organic Farming, commissioned by the Soil Association, was launched by Environment Minister Michael Meacher.

The report’s authors looked at independent studies, which examined wildlife levels found in organic and conventional farm environments. They found that levels of species abundance and diversity – including birds, rare plants, spiders, butterflies and insects – are far higher on organic farms than on conventionally farmed areas.

Up to five times as many wild, rare and declining arable plants, and around 1.5 times more insects, were found on organic farms, while greater numbers of birds and at least three times as many non-pest butterflies were also recorded as inhabiting organic areas in preference to conventionally-run farms. Some of the species – found only on the organic farms – are targeted in the Government’s national action plans on biodiversity (see related story).

Soil Association Director Patrick Holden said in response to the report’s findings: “Our wildlife is disappearing from our countryside at an incredible rate and effective national solutions are urgently needed. This report shows that organic farming supports greater numbers of species throughout the entire farm and will reverse the decline in biodiversity if the amount of land under organic management is increased.”

The Soil Association and WWF-UK, with the support of 221 MPs, are urging the Government to increase funds to enable more land to be turned over to organic management and meet the Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill.

Currently only three per cent of the UK’s agricultural land is organic. The Bill’s target for organic land or that in conversion is to reach 30% by 2010 (see related story).

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