Farming: Ban on pesticides 'would add £70bn to UK food bill'

A LIFE without crop protection products may seem an ideal one for those committed to organic farming, but a new report warns that food costs could soar up to 40 per cent in the UK and add £70 billion to the country's food bill if pesticides are banned.

The Value of Crop Protection report, by leading economist Sean Rickard of Cranfield University, examines the value of crop protection to the food chain and living standards and concludes that food production would fall to half its present level with prices rocketing.

To offset the loss of output, the report reckons that arable farmers would need to double their prices and livestock producers would need to increase prices by a third to cover the higher costs of feed.

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These higher prices, it calculates, represent the net value of plant protection products to the farming industry and in the UK it puts the net value at about 12bn.

In developed countries such as the UK, the report warns that higher food prices would create pressures on disposable incomes along with an adverse inflationary impact on the economy.

This, in turn, might lead to health issues with consumers suffering a reduced choice of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables.

Wider afield, the report considers that higher food prices would threaten the pace of development in the world's poorest regions causing increased hunger and malnutrition.

Rickard also argues that the contribution of modern crop protection products extends beyond the higher living standards and health benefits resulting from lower food prices and more efficient food production.

There are social and recreational benefits from the use of crop protection. These include turf maintenance on sports pitches, golf courses and parks as well as domestic gardens.

The report, published yesterday, was commissioned by the UK Crop Protection Association to highlight the risks of failing to support innovation and investment in crop protection technology. It has been published at a time of heightened concern over the impact of population growth, climate change and declining natural resources on global food security.

CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer described the findings as sending a clear message that "access to the most advanced farming technologies was essential not only to maintain the quality, consistency and affordability of our food supply, but also to keep UK agriculture competitive and to safeguard jobs, growth and wealth creation within the rest of the food chain".