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Response to Review no. 966

I very much appreciate Dr Milton’s perceptive and generous review, and accept his criticisms, only wishing to comment on one point. In chapter 11 in dealing with modern agriculture and the decline of biodiversity, it was not my intention to appear anti-farmer. The review makes a valid point when it points out that other developers who destroy habitats do not get the same bad press, though it is also true that they did not get the same subsidies nor pose as ‘guardians of the countryside’, as was the favourite self-description of the farmer  in the second half of the 20th century. My point was rather to emphasise that the way that British farming policy was directed through the Ministry of Agriculture by the National Farmers Union, assisted by the landowners’ federations, was essentially on behalf of the large farmer and agri-businesses, the direct heirs of the Victorian and Edwardian ‘landed interest’. This not only resulted in policies peculiarly destructive to biodiversity from 1947 onwards, it also neglected the interests of smaller farmers. The example of Denmark showed that this was not the only way to proceed, even within the European Common Agricultural Policy. Especially with targeted inputs, and taxes on fertilisers, the Danes in the 1980s and 1990s limited the damage to their biodiversity while retaining a highly productive and competitive sector. Biodiversity decline in the face of the modernised agricultural practices, broadly from 1950–2000, was perhaps inevitable everywhere, but the extent of it was not inevitably the same everywhere. I made this point insufficiently clear.