A West Midlands farmer was in Brussels this week to take his message about safe use of pesticides directly to lawmakers in the European Parliament.
John Chinn's business Cobrey Farms in Coughton, Ross on Wye, is Britain's biggest asparagus producer.
He addressed the parliament's Special Committee on Pesticides at the invitation of West Midlands Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre.
Mr Chinn, who also grows berries, beans and other crops, spoke about the work of the Centre for Crop Health and Protection, one of four agri-tech innovation centres set up by UK Government, which he chairs.
He warned MEPs that the world population of 7.6 billion people would reach 10 billion by 2050, and the great challenge of the 21st century was to produce more food from the same area while protecting biodiversity.
He said the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the European Crop Protection Association estimated that without crop protection tools farmers could lose 80 per cent of their harvests to damaging insects, weeds and plant diseases.
However, he outlined how developments such as targeted chemistry, use of biological control agents, targeted application technologies and progress in plant breeding and genetics could combine to ensure the production of safe, healthy, nutritious, affordable food with ever better care for the environment.
He described the EU approval process for plant protection products as one of the most stringent in the world and said it took over 11 years, an average of 200 scientific studies and more than 250 million euros to bring a product to the EU market.
And he warned MEPs: "Rigorous testing and application protocols are very effective in protecting the public and the environment. However little attention has been given to its other aims of effectively supporting productive and competitive agriculture and horticulture.
"The fact that the regulation has just started its eighth year and it has only brought to the market the equivalent of about one new active substance per year, including low-risk substances, demonstrates the approach is failing to deliver for growers.
"For a regulation committed to help innovation and support the industry, this is a categoric failure that stifles the availability of safer, more effective and lower risk pesticides," he told the committee, set up to re-asses the way plant protection products are regulated in response to controversy over the re-licensing of the weedkiller glyphosate.
"The collection of even the very best data about pesticides (on exposures, effects, distributions or persistence) will never answer the concerns that some people have about their use, and non-rationalmyths may force social and political changes.
"Scepticism about received truths has long been a common attitude in opinion formers. EU regulators need to rise above this."
Miss McIntyre, Conservative agriculture spokesman in the parliament, said: "This committee was set up with a specific agenda to undermine trust in plant protection products - so I was determined that it would hear from a real life farmer who is also an expert in this area.
"He told the MEPs a few home truths - not only about the industry's real needs but also about very practical ways of limiting the use of products while improving the environment.
"His message about listening to science instead of myths and scaremongering was very powerful."
Anthea McIntyre, Conservative agriculture spokesman in Brussels, today welcomed news that the UK government will test a new scheme for non-EU agricultural workers next year.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: "This will effectively be a revival of something similar to the old seasonal workers scheme which ran until 2013, something I have been advocating for a while.
“The numbers are not sufficient to satisfy the shortage of agricultural workers and I do question why it will be limited to two agencies, but overall I am very pleased that our government has a listened to our farmers and acted on their concerns."
A no-deal Brexit risks destroying the jobs miracle currently lifting the West Midlands and Britain.
That was the message today from Anthea McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament.
She spoke out as the latest monthly jobs figures showed employment at a record high of 32.48 million, up 3.43 million since 2010.
The figures also showed wages rising at their fastest pace in a decade and nearly a million disabled people entering work since 2013.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: “This government is doing an amazing job of breaking down the barriers that keep people from
“Here in the West Midlands, our strong manufacturing and export base has seen employment growing faster than anywhere in the U.K.
“But that could all be destroyed if we crash out of The EU with a no-deal Brexit.
“That is why I encourage all MPs to really think about people’s jobs in the West Midlands and across Britain when they vote on the eventual withdrawal deal in the next few days or weeks.”
Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre today condemned moves to re-open the decision to licence the world's most popular weedkiller for use in the European Union.
The European Parliament's Special Committee on Pesticides wants the issue to be reassessed just 12 months after Glyphosate was licensed for five years by EU member states. The call is among a raft of recommendations produced by the temporary committee aimed at overhauling pesticide licensing system.
Conservative Agriculture Spokesman Miss McIntyre, MEP for the West Midlands, said the proposal on Glyphosate was politically motivated, flew in the face of scientific evidence and would create further uncertainty for farmers.
She said: "The licence was renewed after Glyphosate was approved for use by both the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemical Agency, bodies set up and funded by the EU precisely to provide this kind of expert advice.
"Casting doubt on its immediate future once again makes it difficult for farmers to plan ahead and risks calling the EU's regulatory procedures into disrepute."
It is estimated that banning Glyphosate would cut UK production of winter wheat and winter barley by 12% and oil seed rape by 10%, costing the farming industry £940m a year. Its use also lessens the need for mechanical ploughing, reducing pollution and soil erosion. No biological alternatives are expected to be commercially available in the near future.
Miss McIntyre welcomed several proposals in the report, such as the calls for greater transparency and non-animal tests on pesticides, but said on the whole it represented a missed opportunity to fine tune the existing approvals system, which is working well according to evidence presented to the committee. Instead MEPs are proposing to take responsibilities away from member states and centralise much of the testing and approval process within the EU institutions and agencies.
She said: "There is absolutely nothing to suggest member states are less good at licensing products than the EU, and they are certainly more knowledgeable about local needs and conditions.
"Sadly this report is driven by partisan politics and lobby groups, not the best interests of consumers, the environment or the need to safeguard food production. At the same time it risks needlessly undermining confidence in the current licensing system.
"It could have been written the day after the committee was established as it ignores the bulk of expert evidence presented to it."
The committee's report has no legal authority but, if approved by the European Parliament in January, would inform future decision making on pesticides.
Senior Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre today urged her colleagues in Westminster to back the Prime Minister's Brexit deal for the sake of the country.
The West Midlands MEP, a former vice chairman of the party, said: "Everybody has had the opportunity to say their piece and to paint their own picture of a perfect outcome.
"But no agreement will be perfect for anyone and now is the time back our Prime Minister and do what is best for Britain by supporting her deal."
She spoke out as Theresa May continued to set out her reasons for supporting the Brussels deal as the best option for future national prosperity.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative spokesman on both employment and agriculture in Brussels, said: "As an MEP I do not get to vote in Westminster - but if I did I would be backing the Prime Minister 100 per cent and encouraging all my colleagues to do the same.
"The deal she has struck achieves so many key targets. We secure control of our borders, we can set our own fisheries and agriculture policies, and we can negotiate free trade deals outside the EU, while protecting jobs and security.
"It is the very nature of negotiation that there are comprises and that nobody is satisfied with every single aspect of a deal. So you can wait for perfection but achieve only deadlock... or act now and secure Britain's future.
"I encourage MPs of all parties, but especially our own, to respect our Prime Minister and to recognise the enormous amount of hard work that has got us this far. That means pursuing pragmatism in place of perfection and backing this deal for Britain's sake."
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