Smaller businesses in the farming and food sector must be nurtured not overlooked in policy towards small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

That was the warning from Anthea McIntyre, Conservative spokesman on agriculture and rural affairs, at a conference in the European Parliament on SME policy and regulation.

The MEP for the West Midlands told fellow MEPs and industry experts from a range of sectors that she was a director herself of three SMEs - including a smallholding at her home in Herefordshire.

She was addressing SME Europe - a policy group instigated by the Centre Right European People's Party - at a forum in Strasbourg, and was the only non-EPP member to give a presentation.

She stressed that agriculture as a whole needed politicians to focus on evidence and science-based lawmaking, on regulation and licensing regimes that did not stifle innovation, and on a balanced approach that considered the impact and  burden of new rules, especially on smaller enterprises.

She said: "One policy area I have pursued vigorously is the potential of new technologies to make agriculture more sustainable and more productive.

"It is vital that the benefits of these new ways of working - from robotics to precision spraying to new breeding techniques - are available to small growers and not just the big industrial-scale farms.

"We have to make sure we support these innovations here in Europe - otherwise we will see their development exported to more supportive countries while we are left  to import the results."