Banning glyphosate – seen by many growers as a key agrochemical for crop establishment – would cost the average UK grower more than £10,000 per year, suggests a study.
Some 54% of growers believe a ban on glyphosate would cost them in excess of £10,000 – nearly a third of an average wheat farm’s annual income – pushing 20% of UK wheat farms into serious financial trouble, according to the report by the Crop Protection Association.
Lincolnshire grower Andrew Ward said: “The report reveals what we have long feared, a glyphosate ban would reduce yields for some key crops and push up our costs. This could tip struggling farms over the edge. Reckless politics by the EU is threatening to put British farmers out of business. A ban would also be really bad for the environment. We’d have to use bigger vehicles and do more ploughing which would mean greater carbon emissions and less biodiversity.”
Glyphosate is under increasing scrutiny, with some studies suggesting it can cause cancer. Other studies, however, suggest it is safe. The Crop Protection Association says the impact of a ban would extend beyond the wheat sector to affect agriculture more widely.
Glyphosate enables faster preparation of land prior to planting, increases the number of crop rotations possible, and led to higher yields than other weed management options. A ban could cost some growers as much as £100,000 annually, says the association.
Potential consequences of a glyphosate ban include a £940m reduction in farm output, suggest calculations by researchers at Oxford Economics and agriculture specialists the Andersons Centre, which were undertaken in partnership with the association.
The European Union routinely reviews active ingredients in pesticides and member states could ban glyphosate by the end of 2017 – despite what the association says is overwhelming majority of scientific evidence proving glyphosate is safe.
Oxford Economics director of consulting Ian Mulheirn said: “Our report’s findings are very clear – a glyphosate ban will negatively impact UK GDP and agriculture, at a time of real uncertainty for British farmers.”
UK growers would be put at a considerable disadvantage if glyphosate was not approved for use in the UK but remained available in the rest of the world, said Mr Mulheirn. An EU-wide ban could even push up food prices for consumers, he added.
Crop Protection Association chief executive Sarah Mukherjee said the debate around the use of glyphosate was more about politics than science. More than 40 years of robust scientific evidence had shown no risk to safety, she said.
“Clearly the UK government should continue to champion a science-led approach to decision making in Europe and vote to renew glyphosate’s licence. Failure to do so risks damaging the economy, the environment and the agricultural sector.”