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End of the British carrot?

Mark Mardell | 15:37 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

There have been dire warnings that food prices will shoot up, jobs will be lost, that no carrots will be grown in Britain, and big food may move production outside the European Union because of today's vote in the European Parliament on pesticides - or "plant protection products", as they're now called.

In the vote, 577 MEPs backed the ban on upwards of 20 types of pesticide ingredient, which cause cancer or damage to hormones. I haven't got a breakdown of how the parties voted, but it seems the vast majority of British MEPs, like the British government, were against.

So, it is mainly the British who don't like the new rules: the reason it will become law is because when ministers looked at it, the UK, with only two allies, was outvoted.

But views are clearly and sharply divided. The commission has welcomed the vote, saying it's a good way to start the New Year, protecting human health and the environment.

Greenpeace says it doesn't go far enough, arguing that banning 20 or so products out of 400 dangerous chemicals used means food in Europe will remain dangerous for years to come.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan says: "The decision means food prices will go up for UK families, as local farmers struggle to keep afloat in what are already tough economic times".

The National Farmers' Union warns of "a devastating impact, with agriculture and food production seriously threatened".

Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies says "this new law will stimulate research and the development of safer alternatives that simply would not happen if no controls were introduced".

But how different is the British climate? Is it really so different from northern France, Germany, Holland and Belgium that they have voted to ban products that will leave our agriculture reeling?

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