Horticulture must be treated as a prime asset and nurtured carefully as Britain leaves the EU, a high profile conference heard this week.

Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, told the Growquip conference in Stratford upon Avon that farmers and growers were the major stewards of our environment and needed continued access to innovation, new technology and research.

She said: "They need this to produce food in a sustainable way so that we can both feed the world and protect the environment for future generations.

"Horticulture is a key economic asset, and key to meeting the challenges presented by climate change and population growth.  In a post-Brexit world, Regulators and policy makers in the UK must - now more than ever - stand with the grower and the consumer in allowing this world-beating sector to thrive and grow."

Miss McIntyre, a member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee and Conservative employment spokesman, has produced two influential parliamentary reports - The Future of Europe’s Horticulture Sector - Strategies for Growth and Technological Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture.

Her speech touched on regulation, research and development, plant protection, pests and diseases and Brexit.

She said: "As we leave the EU, it is essential that the UK government, academia, industry, breeders, the agro-chemicals sector, growers and food manufacturers all work together to improve the translation of research into practice."

Miss McIntyre suggested that recent ministerial statements pointed to three reasonable assumptions about a future British Agricultural Bill:

# First, it will pay close attention to science based evidence and, if the science agrees, UK law will closely follow what the EU is doing.

# Secondly, it will offer the devolved administrations more control than they currently have.  

# Third, it will look again at risk versus hazard-based regulation so that agricultural legislation may be simplified.

She warmly welcomed the Government's announcement of  a £40 million grant scheme to boost countryside productivity through investment in cutting-edge technology and new equipment.

Under the scheme, she said, grants would be available to help farmers, including horticultural growers, to improve productivity through new technology to reduce cost or improve product quality. The funding could be used on diverse investments, from robotics to green technology.

She said: "This is a great opportunity for our growers and food processors to invest in the technology they need to boost productivity, competitiveness and, of course, sustainability.

West Midlands MEP Anthea McIntyre has condemned false claims that Brexit will trigger a "race to the bottom" on worker's safety.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, stressed Britain's leading role in improving workplace safety when she spoke in a Strasbourg debate on carcinogens.

MEPs were assessing EU proposals for new Europe-wide limits on exposure to carcinogens and mutagens - but the UK already largely works to stricter levels.

She told the debate: "The limits originally set out in the Commission proposal were the result of many years of detailed work including evaluation and fitness checks.

"It was easy for me, coming from the UK, to agree to the majority of the proposed limits as we already have these lower limits in Britain.

"But as well as enforcing the exposure limits, Member States should be encouraging businesses to strive for the lowest levels possible - lower in fact than the levels set in legislation.

"I am very concerned by claims that a consequence of Brexit will be a race to the bottom for workers’ rights and health and safety standards.

"In fact, the UK has the highest health and safety standards and we have one of the lowest fatality rates among member states - second only to Malta.

"Our rates of work-related-ill health and of workers reporting that their job risks their health are lower than most other member states.

"There is an established and rigorous process for setting limits to ensure that they are evidence based, proportionate, measurable and achievable. As law makers we should respect this."

European Union officials and politicians are playing fast and loose with farmers' livelihoods and food security in their deliberations over a widely-used weedkiller, a leading MEP said today.

Anthea McIntyre MEP spoke out over the use of glyphosate, which farmers and gardeners are anxious to continue using, following two setbacks in the space of 24 hours.

Today the EU Commission's Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, comprising representatives of the 28 member states, failed to reach a consensus on renewing glyphosate's licence for use across the bloc.

Yesterday the European Parliament voted to object to the Commission's proposal for a ten-year licence extension for glyphosate, the active agent in the branded weedkiller Roundup.

Miss McIntyre said: "The EU's own public health agency has said there is no evidence to link glyphosate to cancer in humans. The national agencies in 27 member states take the same view.

"We have to base decisions such as this on science and clear evidence, not scaremongering and guesswork."

"I gather the next step will be for the Commission to hold another vote in November, but that is just weeks before glyphosate’s licence in Europe expires on December 15.

"The delay is playing fast and loose with farmers' livelihoods and with food security. It leaves farmers staring over a cliff edge as they face losing their most effective means of eradicating weeds and protecting crops and productivity.

"If we end up with a ban because of this political paralysis it will deal a heavy blow to the countryside economy and to the cost of food - but it won't do a thing for public health."

The co-founder of the West Midlands Together campaign believes new Home Office figures on hate crime should be taken as a danger warning to society.

Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, was responding to Home Office statistics published today and showing a significant increase in hate crimes in the year 2016-2017.

The biggest rise was in disability and transgender hate crimes.

The report also noted spikes in hate crime around the time of the EU referendum and after the Westminster Bridge attack in March this year.

Miss McIntyre launched the cross-party West Midlands Together campaign, together with her Labour colleague Neena Gill MEP, in the aftermath of the referendum to promote unity and challenge hate crime.

"These figures show a direct link between prominent events and sudden increases in these incidents and attacks.

"We have also seen an increase in people's readiness to report disability and transgender hate crime - and that is good news. There has anecdotally been a significant problem with under-reporting in all sectors.

"We want to make the West Midlands a beacon for tolerance and understanding, where these insidious crimes have no place.

"No event - be it a referendum, a terrorist attack or someone simply walking down the street - can ever provide justification for racism, religious discrimination, homophobia or any other kind of prejudice and hatred."

Anthea McIntyre MEP is continuing to push forward the farming technology agenda with two high-profile events in the European Parliament.

She has co-hosted a forum on The Future of Farming which brought together a range of experts in Brussels to explore the sector's great challenges and opportunities.

And she took part in a panel yesterday (Weds) examining The Impact of Regulation on Agricultural Innovation.

Contributors at the Future of Farming event included Professor Simon Blackmore of Harper Adams University, Shropshire, and Edwin Hecker of the Internet of Food and Farm 2020. They spoke on the benefits of precision agriculture, while further panels and round-tables covered new plant-breeding techniques, societal challenges, and how new technology could improve farming systems.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, was uniquely well-placed to contribute to both events. She has produced a report on Technological Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture, which was adopted by the European Parliament last year, and she chairs a Better Regulation Task Force set up  by the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the parliament.

She said: 'These events highlighted a range of areas where effective harnessing of innovation will boost productivity while protecting the environment and biodiversity.

"But I also had to warn that badly thought-out regulation could be the enemy of progress. I stressed the innovation principle - that regulation must always allow research and enterprise to drive innovation by using genuine science-based evidence in evaluating risk and benefit.

"This is where precision farming and information technology come in - improving soil-health and water management, precision livestock farming, precision breeding and even precision entomology.

"While the use of standard equipment with precision-farming techniques can prove beneficial, it is only with the development of what are called 'disruptive' technologies that real gains can be made.

"These are developments such as laser weed-killing systems and second-generation drones, capable of undertaking field tasks rather than simply capturing images.

"Farmers are the major stewards of our environment. They need continued access to innovation, new technology and research in order to produce food in a sustainable way and protect the environment for future generations.

"In that, they need help not hindrance from the regulatory framework."