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NFU denies 'dangers' published in RSPB report.

The NFU has accused the RSPB of being "sensationalist" over the title of a new report looking at the impact of nutrients on birds and other biodiversity in the countryside.

The report ( called Force-feeding the countryside ( claims the UK countryside is being force-fed "dangerous" levels of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, and says the increased use of inorganic fertiliser on farms is one of the main causes.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: "We are disappointed the RSPB has chosen such a sensationalist title for this report and portrayed nutrients as 'dangerous'. Nutrients are essential for food production and farmers, like no other group, know their value. We need a serious and measured debate of this issue, with action to match.

"This is a forward-looking industry that is embracing change at a rate never seen previously. We would welcome the RSPB to join us in sustaining the change that we're already seeing.

"We need Government to look at all sources of pollution in the countryside, including air pollution from transport and sewage treatment works, as well as those from farms."

As an example of efforts to improve fertiliser management in farming, the NFU launched an environment plan for dairy farming with the Environment Agency and Milk Development Council last month.

The RSPB report says studies point to "nutrient pollution" as having an effect on wildlife.

Fertiliser now accounts for about 60% of the nitrogen and about 80% of the phosphorous used by man.

According to the report, intensification of agriculture, driven in part by the increased use of nutrients, has already pushed one bird, the red-backed shrike, to extinction in the UK. The bittern is among the species at risk from the effects of widespread nutrient pollution, says the report. It adds that nutrients also enter watercourses from some sewage treatment works, which have not been upgraded to treat them.

Rod Cunningham, RSPB head of water policy, said: "Using the nutrient cycle wisely is vital for agriculture, industry and the environment.

"In recent years huge strides have been made to improve the countryside for wildlife. The amount of nitrogen used on farmland has fallen from its high-point in the 1980s and the water industry has invested heavily in improving sewage treatment. In addition, farmers are doing much to improve the environment, not least through the work made possible by agri-environment schemes.

"However, this report shows there are still very serious problems which need to be tackled by government, farmers and industry. Nutrient pollution is environmentally damaging and expensive to clean-up."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 19, 2006
Words:419
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