August 7, 2014
Biodiversity and the role of agriculture

In light of the upcoming UN Seoul meeting on the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in October, the European Council has put forward a position paper stating that it will be supporting a number of conservation targets under the Biodiversity 2020 Strategy, including shaping the role of agriculture in the protection of the environment.

Since over half of the EU’s territory is managed by farmers (EU Biodiversity Strategy), member states have long upheld the view–reflected in the CAP and the Natura 2000 project–that a closer focus on rural development, including improving resource efficiency, limiting deforestation and imposing minimum mandatory spending on environmental measures in farms, will help restore biodiversity.

However, the problem is much more complex. In order for agriculture to become a preservation tool, farming mechanisms will need to be revolutionised. Farms, defined as areas where land productivity is maximized to yield either food or feed, in order to to meet that very definition cannot be a natural conservation area for all forms of birds and insects to live and breed. Nonetheless, increasing production on arable land already in use, as well as making optimal use of modern, non-invasive strategies of production can reduce environmental impact.

To do so, policy makers should be investing heavily in modern cultivation techniques, rather than expensive and relatively ineffective conservation projects. Making use of no-tillage alternatives, which reduce soil erosion and disruption to organisms living in the soil, or using climate change data to maximise yields, as well as creating efficient water recycling mechanisms, could all help reduce the impact of industrial and intensive farming on biodiversity.


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