A NEW report says Brussels could land British farmers with a £1bn bill for battling weeds.

The independent study by Oxford Economics, a leading economic research house, and Andersons Business Consultants, was commissioned by the Crop Protection Association.

The research looked at the impact of a potential EU ban on common herbicides containing glyphosate on the British economy and agriculture.

The study said it could lead to a reduction in farm output of £940m; reduce tax revenues generated by agriculture and its supply chain by £193m; see wheat production fall by 20 per cent; and an EU-wide ban could even push up food prices.

The report said glyphosate has been safely used by British farmers for weed control for 40 years but a routine review of active ingredients in pesticides by the EU could ban glyphosate by the end of the year.

Ian Mulheirn, director of consulting with Oxford Economics, 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.

“If glyphosate was not approved for use in the UK but remained available in the rest of the world, it would place domestic production at a considerable disadvantage. An EU-wide ban could even push up food prices for consumers.”

Sarah Mukherjee, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, claimed the debate around the use of glyphosate was more about politics than science.

She said: “Glyphosate is and always has been safe, with over 40 years of robust scientific evidence showing no risk to safety. Clearly the UK government should continue to champion a science-led approach to decision-making in Europe and vote to renew glyphosate’s licence.”

The glyphosate decision is one of three concerning major plant protection products that the EU will take in the next six months. The others are a decision on the banning of all neonicotinoids for outdoor use, and the definition of endocrine disruptors, which could end the use of 26 active ingredients.

Guy Smith, NFU vice-president, said at Cereals 2017: “The NFU will continue to make the case for evidence-based decisions to be made in all three of these areas. We will continue to work with our members to help them make the case to politicians and other decision makers about the importance of these products and to demonstrate the damage that bad decisions will have on farming and our food supply.”

Dr Chris Hartfield, NFU acting chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said the neonicotinoid ban would affect around one million hectares of arable crops, including cereals and sugar beet, where there are no effective alternative treatments. It would also affect a significant area of vegetable crops.

He said: “We need farmers to write to MPs and MEPs, to visit surgeries to speak to them, and invite them out on farm to show them why these products are so important.

“Experts at the world-leading agricultural research station at Rothamsted have recently questioned the evidence behind neonicotinoid bans and re-iterated that it still does not provide a clear steer for policy-makers.

“It is vital we use science and good evidence to ensure we find appropriate ways to tackle problems facing bees and other pollinators that will really benefit their populations.”