Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Saturday, 1 November 2008

Pesticide ban 'threat to farming'

Fruit and vegetable growing is under threat, a farming organisation claims.

Plans for a new European Parliament law banning many pesticides would seriously affect growers, a National Farmers Union (NFU) spokesman said.

"We could lose 80% of pesticides currently available and this would end commercial production of many horticultural crops," he said.

The MEP for Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, Robert Sturdy, said food shortages could also result.

The MEP is a member of the environment committee responsible for proposing the new law and used to be a farmer in Cambridgeshire.

He disagrees with the National Farmers Union's predictions but said he was against a ban because it was being introduced at the wrong time.

"I think there's no doubt, at a time when everyone's suffering with mortgages, with worries about their jobs, with food prices increasing, there will be a shortage of food.

"With this Bill we will not be able to import food from countries where these chemicals are used, so it is going to be very restrictive."

Scientifically backed

The key vote on the proposals is due to take place in the European Parliament next week.

Elliott Cannell, of the Pesticide Action Network, an environmental group which backs the proposals, said: "The European Union has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds evaluating each pesticide.

"So when we say some pesticides are causing cancer this is based on rigorous scientific analysis. When we say some pesticides are linked with birth problems, with birth defects that's based on science too.

"There's also a statement that was published a month ago - it was written on behalf of a 180 global experts on environmental health and it backed unanimously 100% of the proposals on the table saying we need tougher laws in Europe on pesticides."

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