Doubt cast over benefits of green farming

Researchers report no biodiversity gains from long-running Dutch agri-environment scheme

"Agri-environment" schemes aimed at improving farmland biodiversity risk proving themselves environmentally useless, concludes Dutch research to be published in the science journal Nature on Thursday. The findings will cause ripples across the EU, which is encouraging a shift in agricultural subsidies from direct price supports to more agri-environment payments (EED 08/05/01).

The study is among the first to put agri-environment schemes to the test since their introduction at EU level in 1992. Researchers at Wageningen university compared biodiversity levels in Dutch farm fields subject to green management restrictions with those farmed conventionally. They found no evidence that government-sponsored environmental "management agreements," introduced in 1981, are effective in increasing populations of targeted species.

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