Daily News Archive
From August 8, 2005

Organic Farms 'Best for Wildlife'
(Beyond Pesticides, August 8, 2005)
Organic farms are better for wildlife than those run conventionally, according to a new study by scientists from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Oxford University. The five-year study of 180 farms in the United Kingdom finds that the organic farms contain 85% more plant species, 33% more bats, 17% more spiders and 5% more birds than conventional farms, reports BBC News.

Funded by the government, the study was the largest and most comprehensive study of organic farming to date. The study was published on August 3 in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.

"The exclusion of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers from organic is a fundamental difference between systems," the study states.

The study also shows that organic farms often include smaller fields, more grasslands and hedges that are thicker and on average 71% longer.

Dr. Lisa Norton, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, explained that: "Hedges are full of native, berry-producing shrubs, which are great for insects and the birds and bats that feed on them." Additionally, the fact the organic arable farms were more likely to have livestock on them also made them richer habitats for wildlife.
Increased biodiversity was a "happy by-product" of sustainable farming practices and farmers working with "natural processes" to increase productivity, Dr. Norton added.

The study's lead author, British Trust for Ornithology habitat research director Dr. Rob Fuller, told BBC News: "There were very large benefits right across the species spectrum."

Dr. Fuller added in a press release, “Organic farms clearly have positive biodiversity effects for wild flowers. However, if they are to provide benefits on the same scale for species that need more space, like birds, we either need the farms to be larger or for neighbouring farms to be organic too. Currently, less than 3% of English farmland is organic so there is plenty of scope for an increase in area. Such an increase would help to restore biodiversity within agricultural landscapes.”

TAKE ACTION: To learn more about what production processes and materials are allowed and not allowed in certified organic food, see the USDA National Organic Program. If you cannot buy all organic and would like to know which fruits and vegetables contain the highest and lowest residues of pesticides, see EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” report.