Electric, Hybrid and quiet combustion engine cars are making today’s vehicles quieter and this near-silence poses a serious risk to blind and partially sighted pedestrians.
That was the key message that Terry Smith, the Engagement Manager with Guide Dogs for the Blind, delivered when local MEP Anthea McIntyre visited the charity’s Birmingham Mobility Centre in Harborne.
“I fully support the ‘Safe & Sound Campaign’ which calls for the installation of audible sound generators on cars to improve road safety for all pedestrians.
“I had the opportunity to briefly experience ‘walking blind’ on the open road with a training dog, Rusty. Once blindfold, you very quickly realise how dependant you are on sounds to help you understand what is happening around you.
“The necessary regulations have now been approved by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee and are expected to reach the full Parliament for approval in the Spring. I shall try to speak in support o the measure then and will certainly be voting for it.” Miss McIntyre said.
“My admiration for guide dogs like Rusty is immense and I am very grateful to Terry and the whole team at Harborne for giving me this opportunity.”
(Photograph shows Anthea McIntyre MEP ‘walking blind’ with Rusty and accompanied by Terry Smith and Shelley from Guide Dogs for the Blind)
West Midlands MEP Anthea McIntyre, was invited to speak at a high-level seminar in Brussels on "Speciality Crops and Minor Uses". Following the publication of her report on “EU horticulture - strategies for growth”, Miss McIntyre was asked to contribute to the seminar by the European Parliament's Agriculture Chairman, Mr Paolo De Castro and spoke in support of minor use approvals – the system under which the use of certain insecticides and pesticides is permitted.
Miss McIntyre drew on evidence presented to her during the preparation of her report and in particular referred to evidence regarding berries and asparagus.
“We are all concerned about food security and the likely impact of climate change on EU arable and horticultural production. In this context the fruit and vegetable sector is extremely important.
“The berry market, right across Europe, depends on highly specialised minor crops. These have significant pest and disease pressures not least because of their long harvest periods, the perishability of the fruit, and the very high expectations of consumers for quality. The range and complexity of soft fruit pests and diseases have significant economic impact and mean we need very effective and sophisticated control measures. Without these controls, the production of some soft fruit will become uneconomic in Europe.
“Overall, berry crops do not cover very many hectares. Therefore we very much need a minor use fund because manufacturers do not support use on these crops, because of the relatively low returns on their investment gathering the necessary data.
“Another example is asparagus which is grown extensively where I live in Herefordshire. The lack of crop protection solutions is having a significant impact on all asparagus growers in the UK. 10 years ago asparagus was eaten by just 3% of the UK population but today that figure has risen to 17%. British asparagus is grown on just 2,000 hectares and the marketplace is so undersupplied that some 40% of all asparagus consumed during the UK season is imported – mainly from Peru. Asparagus growers in Peru have permitted use of a much larger range of agri-chemicals than growers in the UK. The economics of asparagus production in the UK are already difficult due to the very restricted range of chemistry available. Further reductions to the list of permitted active ingredients will jeopardise current British asparagus production and curtail the expansion, which is urgently needed to replace imports from Peru.
“My near neighbours, the Chinn family, grow in excess of 500 hectares of asparagus in the UK supporting the livelihood of 12 other farmers and employing over 1,000 people. The current paucity of permitted active ingredients for weed and disease control is already resulting in the evolution of resistant weeds and fungal disease. We are now threatened with further reductions in the range of chemistry that has permitted use in the UK. In terms of herbicides the loss of metribuzin, linuron or pendimethalin would make things very difficult, especially linuron given current metribuzin resistance problems in groundsel. It is not commercially viable to grow asparagus as an outdoor crop in the UK without effective residual herbicides. Mechanical cultivation damages the crop, shortens economic life, and provides ineffective weed control compared with residual herbicides. Without more new herbicide approvals, the continuing availability of existing herbicides is vitally important. Without this we will not see continuing production of asparagus in the UK.
“A neonicotinoid insecticide is crucial for continued effective control of the common asparagus beetle, the most serious pest of asparagus in the UK. There is no effective cultural control for asparagus beetle and control currently relies entirely on chemicals.
“It is important to provide consumers with the high quality products they demand. We must also ensure crop diversity and a wide range of choice on the market.
"We must also avoid the distortion of competition with third countries.”
Miss McIntyre went on to praise the work of Harper Adams University and the innovative Centre for Integrated Pest Management.
"It is also important to encourage research and development in the European market for plant protection products to ensure high safety standards while still guaranteeing that operators can have access to the right tools to prevent, detect and control pests and emerging diseases as effect of climate change when this is needed.
“Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is absolutely the way forward. Here I must mention Harper Adams University who came to Brussels recently to launch their centre for IPM and seek partners for collaborative research within the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
"Integrated Pest Management should be a tool box of measures which includes chemical pesticides. I have great concerns over the hazard-based approach to pesticides rather than a risk- based approach. Our decisions must be based on proper scientific evidence. No farmer will use more chemicals than is absolutely necessary. Banning the use of some pesticides before ecologically sound alternatives are developed threatens our food security as well as the livelihood of 1000s of SMEs involved in the manufacturing of these products.”
The need to encourage us all to eat more fruit and vegetables was discussed by food and nutrition experts from the World Health Organisation, International Obesity Task Force, producer groups, politicians and officials from the EU at a meeting hosted by West Midlands MEP, Anthea McIntyre in Brussels.
The forum was arranged to explore policies that would effectively encourage greater consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables and focussed on the health and economic benefits that such policies would have.
The benefits of consuming fruit and vegetables have long been recognised, and they are the only foods recommended in written dietary guidelines. Increasing the intake of fruit and vegetables is a crucial component of a healthy diet and plays a major role in the prevention and reduction of the major economic, societal and personal costs induced by non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Fruit and vegetable consumption, with other dietary improvements, benefits health and longevity, reduces the impact of socio-economic inequalities, lowers medical costs and is recognised by the World Bank and the European Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be crucial for optimum economic growth in Europe.
Dr. Godfrey Xuereb (WHO) noted: “It is alarming that in most EU Member States average fruit and vegetable consumption is below the minimum WHO recommendation of 400 g/day/person. Heads of State and Governments of the United Nations consider fruit and vegetable intake increase one of the challenges to be targeted by 2025.”
In fact, average consumption of fruit and vegetables has fallen by the equivalent of one piece of fruit or one portion of vegetables in the last decade according to research by the European Fresh Produce Association (Freshfel Europe).
Professor Philip James (International Obesity Task Force) was adamant: “It is the perfect time to change the agriculture and food policies of Europe for economic benefits, and it is all the more important to do this in the current time of economic crises when diets are often deteriorating badly.”
Miss McIntyre MEP concluded: “This meeting was an excellent opportunity to raise important issues that have been highlighted in my report, “The future of Europe’s horticulture sector: strategies for growth” and which are so relevant for the fruit and vegetables sector. Fruit and vegetables account for 18% of the total value of agricultural production in the EU and are produced from only 3% of cultivated land. The sector is worth more than € 50 billion, with 80 million tons produced and distributed by 550,000 employees. I am delighted that my report could be a starting point for a wider debate across Europe to make sure that we can move with a holistic approach from awareness into action.”
Conservative MEPs have vowed to fight plans to give the European Union a supervisory role over a range of social issues in member states.
The proposals would see the creation a so-called Social Scoreboard, giving Brussels licence to meddle in matters such as poverty-levels, health care, benefits payments and housing policy in individual member states.
Tory MEPs voted against the plan but it was approved by a majority of the Parliament sitting in Strasbourg on Thursday. Now an analysis of the voting shows that the motion was passed with the support of British Labour and Liberal Democrat MEPs.
Under the title "Social Dimensions of the European Monetary Union", the report by French Socialist MEP Pervenche Beres seeks to treat perceived social imbalances on the same footing as economic indicators such as gross domestic product or national debt.
It calls for the Social Scoreboard to score member states on measures such as child-poverty levels, access to healthcare, homelessness and on a so-called decent-work index.
Tellingly, although the report is presented in the context of the single currency, there is no clause exempting countries outside the Eurozone, such as the United Kingdom.
The text also makes references to a European Unemployment Benefit Scheme, suggesting a clear ambition for Brussels to control benefits payments across Europe.
Anthea McIntyre MEP, Conservative spokesman on employment and social affairs, said: "Clearly this is the Parliament manoeuvring to create a role for the EU as Europe's social conscience.
"Worse than that, they want to appropriate powers to supervise and intervene over the way member states deal with social problems. They want to set themselves up as the social police.
"Nobody is saying poverty, ill health and homelessness are not real problems in need of real solutions. What we are saying is that individual states and governments must be allowed to address them as they see fit, not according to a set of rules set down in Brussels.
"Sadly, my Labour and Liberal colleagues appear to think British voters are not responsible or compassionate enough to decide for themselves how to respond."
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