PARIS (AP) _ Angry French farmers on Tuesday urged a boycott of British food in a further escalation of the conflict over France's refusal to lift a ban on British beef.

Luc Guyau, president of the National Federation of Agricultural Unions, said French farmers would respond in kind if British farmers carry out their threat to boycott French food.

The heart of the dispute is food safety and France's refusal to lift its ban on British beef despite an European Union decision rescinding a worldwide ban imposed in 1996 as a result of the mad cow crisis. Evidence has linked the bovine disease with a fatal human brain condition, Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

Britain argues that a report submitted by the French to the EU to justify its refusal to adhere to the lifting of the ban presents no new evidence that British beef is unsafe. Britain wants the EU to take retaliatory measures against France.

An EU report Friday that accused French animal feed plants of violating European safety regulations by using prohibited substances, including sewage waste, in the preparation of cattle feed has further angered British farmers.

``If tomorrow England pushes things to the extreme'' and decides to go ahead with a ``total boycott of all French agricultural and food products, I would simply say one thing. England is an island. An island is easier to blockade than a continent,'' Guyau said.