APRIL 28, 2011: A new report measuring nitrogen pollution says it’s costing 280 billion pounds a year. That’s �650 annually for every person in Europe.
Two thirds of the problem is being attributed to farming. The annual cost of damage caused by nitrogen pollution across Europe is more than double the extra income gained from using nitrogen fertilisers in agriculture, the study has revealed. The Soil Association says the findings add weight to the case for organic growing as a more environmentally friendly approach to growing food. The study, carried out by 200 experts from 21 countries and 89 organisations, resulted in the first European Nitrogen Assessment (ENA), which was launched at a conference in Edinburgh in April. Welcoming the report, Prof Bob Watson, Defra’s chief scientific adviser, said it emphasised how nitrogen linked the different environmental issues – climate, biodiversity, air, water, and soil pollution. “It develops the vision for a more holistic approach, which is vital if we are to make progress in tackling these issues.” The lead editor of the ENA, Dr Mark Sutton from the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “Nearly half the world’s population depends on synthetic, nitrogen-based fertiliser for food, but measures are needed to reduce the impacts of nitrogen pollution. “Solutions include more efficient use of fertilisers and manures, and people choosing to eat less meat. We have the know-how to reduce nitrogen pollution, but what we need now is to apply these solutions throughout Europe in an integrated way.” Isobel Tomlinson, policy and campaigns officer for the Soil Association, said organic farmers are not allowed to use artificial fertilisers so avoid many of the problems caused by the vast quantities of synthetic nitrogen in non-organic systems, which this report highlights. “This all adds to the case for supporting organic as the most environmentally-friendly choice for our food and farming,” she said.