Embracing organic can save our wild isles
David Attenborough’s new Wild Isles TV series is delightful, astonishing, and harrowing in equal measure. His incredible insights into the natural world are rarely broadcast from the British Isles. But, as he points out, the UK is one of the most nature-depleted places on Earth, so perhaps this is not a surprise.
He reveals shocking statistics. Over the last 50 years, 38 million birds have vanished from our skies, 97% of our wildflower meadows have been lost, and a quarter of all our mammals are now at risk of extinction.
Historic habitat loss due to intensive agriculture has caused bird numbers to greatly reduce, nature’s champion points out in the Grasslands episode. In short, Britain’s wildlife is in trouble.
But the damage is not irreversible, as the eagerly anticipated Save our Wild Isles documentary, now available on BBC iPlayer highlighted. There is a way of farming that doesn’t rely on destructive pesticides and instead focuses on creating homes for predatory insects that eat crop pests.
There is a way of farming that uses plants to fertilise soils and refuses to use the chemical products that pollute our land and waters. This is farming organically.
Organic is backed by science and wildlife
With nature in crisis and 50 per cent more wildlife on average on organic farms, it is a severe injustice to people, farmers, and nature that organic is seen as niche, exclusive or radical.
For more than 50 years, organic farmers have been pioneering practices that care for nature above and below the ground. Harmful chemicals are banned, contributing to there being a third more species overall on their farms, on average, including 50 per cent more pollinators and 20 per cent more bird species.
It is a travesty that only around three per cent of British farmland is organic. But there is hope – change is in the air. There is a groundswell of nature-friendly farming in the UK farming scene.
While fully certified organic farms remain a minority, the principles and methods of farming that underpin the organic movement are starting to get recognition as a vital solution for restoring nature.
Organic pioneers and the surge in regenerative and agroecological farming have shown it is entirely possible for farming to make space for nature. and that wildlife is crucial for producing good food.
Those behind the Saving Our Wild Isles documentary and campaign point out that nature is our life support. We cannot live without it. Farming in harmony with wildlife does not need to seem like a luxury – it should and can be a priority.
A nature-friendly future is possible
With the right support and incentives, organic farming methods can be adopted by any farmer, for the benefit of every person on our Wild Isles and all the wild creatures who also call them home.
We need the UK government and retailers to stop shying away from supporting organic. Others are putting them to shame.
The EU aims to increase organic to 25 per cent of Europe’s farmland by 2030. The Scottish Government is aiming to double organic farmland in the same timeframe. Denmark’s public purse even covers the cost for farmers to get certified against the rigorous organic standards that ensure environmental protection. Why does Westminster have no targets for organic?
And why are our supermarkets not embracing organic as a way of ‘greening’ their supply chains? Like all of us, they have a responsibility to look after our precious wildlife. The organic logo is the easiest way for shoppers to find regeneratively farmed food.
If you shop around, you may be surprised to find it often doesn’t cost more, especially if you make small swaps and start with the basics like milk or tinned and dried staples.
For those who can’t access organic food, we all must continue to fight for Government and retailers to make the big, but entirely necessary, changes to our dysfunctional supply chains to turn that around.
Greater reward for farmers to go organic would result in more organic food on shelves for consumers at more competitive prices. Organic is an obvious solution and it can be an easy choice. We all deserve that, just like we all deserve a wildlife-rich UK.
And for those who can access organic food now – every single choice you make supports wildlife and helps to Save Our Wild Isles. Find out more about organic and agroecological heroes who are creating space for nature right now.