UK sustainable agriculture indicators released

Government proposes pilot set of 36 measures of environmental, economic, social, trends

The UK agriculture ministry today released a pilot set of sustainable development indicators comprising 36 measures of economic, social and environmental trends. The data set is to be reviewed in 2003 and should be updated every five years, according to the ministry.

Development of the indicators builds on long-standing work by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (ENDS Daily 17 February 1997), as well as the UK's own efforts. Last year, the government released a revised sustainable development strategy, including a general set of 150 indicators and a subset of 14 headline indicators (ENDS Daily 17 May 1999).

Within the new set, nine indicators measure economic aspects, 12 the use of inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers, six the use of resources, five the conservation value of agricultural land and three the development of farm management systems.

On the environmental front, positive trends revealed by the indicators include a huge and sudden increase in the area of land undergoing conversion to organic management between 1998 and 1999, continuing falls in pesticide residues in food and a big increase in the area of land under commitment to environmental conservation. Worsening trends include an increasing "spray area" treated with pesticides, rising use of water for irrigation and falling levels of organic matter in soils.

Follow Up:
UK agriculture ministry, tel: +44 20 72 38 30 00. "Towards Sustainable Agriculture: A Pilot Set of Indicators".

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