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."

Groundbreaking work at a West Midlands University has been highlighted in the European Parliament for cutting use of pesticides and reducing farming's environmental impact.

Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, praised the achievements of Harper Adams University in Shropshire and in particular its Centre for Integrated Pest Management.

During a Brussels debate in the Parliament's Agriculture Committee, she said the centre addressed global issues in agriculture, forestry and horticultural crop production.

Miss McIntyre said: "They have undertaken active research in important areas such as pest monitoring, application technology, nematology (the study of worms), plant pathology and weed science.

“There are research projects looking at laser treatment for precisely targeting weeds in farm crops, and at forecasting attacks of pests based on environmental conditions in various crops.

"We mustn't forget that pesticides are a part of integrated pest management (IPM). With everyone’s desire to minimise the use of chemicals, it is very important to encourage the development of precision farming techniques.

"Using precision technologies to apply fertilisers and pesticides within agricultural systems we can reduce environmental impacts and make savings for farmers."

Miss McIntyre, Conservative agriculture spokesman in Brussels, has produced a series of reports promoting the harnessing of advancing technology to enhance yields and create environmental improvements in farming, forestry and horticulture.

She called for further promotion of Integrated Pest Management systems, such as crop rotation and conservation tillage, and alternative approaches with the use of agri-tech, and concluded "There is still a lot of untapped potential for farmers.”

Anthea McIntyre, co-founder of the campaign group West Midlands Together, has condemned attacks against two mosques in Birmingham.

 

Miss McIntyre said: “These despicable attacks on people at worship were designed to provoke fear and anger.

"Happily the communities targeted showed admirable restraint and dignity, but that does not take away from the nastiness of the hate crime committed.

 “This was an act of unreasoning hatred and we can only hope that those responsible are traced and feel the full weight of the law.”

 

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, founded West Midlands Together with her Labour colleague Neena Gill after a spike in hate crime following the EU referendum.



Disabled people do not just need equal access to public spaces and buildings - they need equal access to the democratic process too.

That was the message from Anthea McIntyre MEP in an impassioned speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, during a debate on involvement of disabled people in the 2019 EU elections.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, was speaking after attending the 11th Conference of State Parties to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations in New York.

She told MEPs of a session titled Nothing About us Without Us which outlined the steps some countries were taking to ensure everyone can vote – including mobile polling stations, voting in hospital and portable polling booths that can enable a wheelchair user to cast their vote in private.

She said: "As a signatory (to the Convention), the EU and the Member States have a responsibility to take appropriate action to ensure that all 80 million European citizens with disabilities, including those with mental or intellectual disabilities, can fully participate in the electoral process.

"The European Parliament has traditionally been a strong ally in implementing the human rights of persons with disabilities and the 2019 European elections should be no different."

Following the debate she said: "I have said before that you can judge a country's character as well as its progress by its expectations of disabled people. The acid test is whether, and to what degree, disabled people are allowed, helped and expected to participate fully in the democratic process - as voters, politicians, ministers or leaders."