The EU Commission will decide this week whether to ban the use of a controversial weedkiller called Glyphosate, which campaigners say has health risks. But as Kate King reports, farmers and others say they'll be a significant cost to any ban as there is no comparable alternative and the risks aren't confirmed anyway.
At this time of year there's little to harvest on this crop farm in Essex. Yet there's one thing still growing: weeds (SOUNDBITE) FARMER, EDWARD FORD OF CHILDERDITCH FARM, SAYING: "We come through a couple of weeks before we want to put a seed in the ground we spray the Glyphosate and it will kill all of this weed very quickly and very efficiently." Glyphosate has been used on this farm for 40 years and is the most commonly used herbicide in the world. Some say it causes cancer and want it banned. But the World Health Organisation, says it's only a "probable human carcinogen' based on 'limited evidence'. (SOUNDBITE) FARMER, EDWARD FORD OF CHILDERDITCH FARM, SAYING: "If you look at it where they have placed it on the carcinogen list above that, ie more toxic more carcinogenic than glyphosate you have got salt, you've got caffeine, you've got coffee, you've got tobacco, you've got alcohol, you've got bleach, they are five products that are used in everyday life." Glyphosate is the active ingredient in another household product: weedkiller Roundup. Monsanto, the US agro giant that makes it, insists it meets the standards required to renew its European licence, - which is due to expire on December 15th unless the EU renews it. (SOUNDBITE) FARMER, EDWARD FORD OF CHILDERDITCH FARM, SAYING: "If we lose glyphosate food prices are going to go up. That's what it amounts to, we are not going to be able to keep our costs of production low enough to produce food at a sensible price." Ed grows wheat, barley, oats and beans for UK consumption. He says removing glyphosate would put him at a competitive disadvantage. Oxford Economics has independently done the math. It says a ban could change the shape of Britain's crop climate - reducing wheat production alone by twenty percent. (SOUNDBITE) PETE COLLINGS, LEAD ECONOMIST AT OXFORD ECONOMICS SAYING: "What we will see then is farmers incomes will fall, we estimate, to the tune of 943 million pounds." That makes no difference to Glyphosate critics who've handed the EU a petition signed by more than 1.3 million people backing a ban. France for one is opposed to a long-term extension, it plans to argue instead for a three year cut-off.