Blueprint for production horticulture wins official backing from European Parliament

MEP Anthea McIntyre's bid to move production horticulture up the European policy agenda took a major step forward last week when her "own-initative" report of policy proposals for the sector was approved by the European Parliament.

"As a Resolution from the Parliament, the Commission has to respond to it, and I hope they receive it favourably," the West Midlands Conservative representative in the Parliament told Grower afterwards. "The wheels turn very slowly though."

Most immediately, the Commission will have to take on board the resolution's views in its delayed review of the Fruit & Vegetable Scheme, which governs support for producer organisations. "I will be able to recommend things that now have the Parliament's backing, such as simplifying the red tape around the organisations," she said.

"The main thrust was to highlight the importance of horticulture - it's amazing how much we get from it given the small area involved. Given the many health benefits to fresh-produce consumption, there really isn't a downside. At the very least, it will raise awareness of these things."

McIntyre earlier canvassed the views of leading figures in UK horticulture to ensure the resolution reflected current industry concerns (HW, 11 October 2013).

It subsequently "escaped pretty well" from scrutiny by the parliament's agriculture committee, although "we lost a couple of things" in the full Parliament on 11 March before being approved, she said, adding: "That was sad. We need to produce so much more food. We can't stick our heads in the sand and say 'no' to everything."

Conservation charity Buglife had earlier urged the public to write to MEPs asking them to vote against the report due to its calls for lighter-touch regulation of crop-protection products. The Green Party also called for it to be rejected.

Final resolution Inclusions and omissions

What made it into the final resolution:

- Call for a risk-based approach to regulation of plant protection products and for sharing of data across member states where minor uses are concerned.

- Call for greater efforts at European and member state level to develop integrated pest and disease management strategies to supplant conventional products.

- Call for the Commission to help increase market access of horticultural products to non-EU countries, including where plant health standards are an obstacle.

- Criticism of the private standards for pesticide residues adopted by retailers as "anti-competitive and detrimental to the interests of fruit and vegetable growers".

What failed to make it into the final resolution:

- Call for the Commission to "reassess restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides".

- Call to support "innovative plant-breeding techniques", understood as meaning genetic modification.

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