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."