European Union officials and politicians are playing fast and loose with farmers' livelihoods and food security in their deliberations over a widely-used weedkiller, a leading MEP said today.

Anthea McIntyre MEP spoke out over the use of glyphosate, which farmers and gardeners are anxious to continue using, following two setbacks in the space of 24 hours.

Today the EU Commission's Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, comprising representatives of the 28 member states, failed to reach a consensus on renewing glyphosate's licence for use across the bloc.

Yesterday the European Parliament voted to object to the Commission's proposal for a ten-year licence extension for glyphosate, the active agent in the branded weedkiller Roundup.

Miss McIntyre said: "The EU's own public health agency has said there is no evidence to link glyphosate to cancer in humans. The national agencies in 27 member states take the same view.

"We have to base decisions such as this on science and clear evidence, not scaremongering and guesswork."

"I gather the next step will be for the Commission to hold another vote in November, but that is just weeks before glyphosate’s licence in Europe expires on December 15.

"The delay is playing fast and loose with farmers' livelihoods and with food security. It leaves farmers staring over a cliff edge as they face losing their most effective means of eradicating weeds and protecting crops and productivity.

"If we end up with a ban because of this political paralysis it will deal a heavy blow to the countryside economy and to the cost of food - but it won't do a thing for public health."