At the Brussels headquarters of EU Farmers' body COPA-COGECA, Luc Peeters, chairman of the organisation's phytosanitary group, told the meeting: "We call again on all relevant directorates of the European Commission to come up with an effective EU minor use and speciality crops programme. Otherwise there will be significant negative long-term consequences for sustainable agriculture and food security in Europe."
The meeting, attended by more than 100 representatives of regulators and industry from all EU member states, heard from Dr Jerry Baron of the US Department of Agriculture, the IR-4 programme of which already facilitates registration of crop protection products.
Among the UK contingent, NFU horticulture adviser Dr Chris Hartfield said: "IR-4 is a very successful programme, and that's basically what we want in Europe. There is frustration that it's not yet moving in that direction.
"The big question is where the funding will come from, but the benefits far outweigh the costs, as the US example has shown."
Hartfield described this latest meeting as a step on the road, but added: "It needs someone skilled and experienced enough to drive it forward at EU level."
A communique issued after the meeting called for the creation of an EU database of all products and uses authorised by individual member states. Common protocols for simplified studies on minor uses and speciality crops were also urged and greater mutual recognition of substances authorised at member-state level.
NFU horticulture board chairman Sarah Pettitt pointed out: "Many member states are doing the same (approval) work and each is taking money off its farmers to do so."
"It looks like a forthcoming report from DG SANCO (the EU's Directorate General for Health and Consumer Affairs) will help get a registration programme going," said International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association executive director David Cary, who attended the Brussels meeting. But funding has yet to be discussed, he pointed out.
"We think this will make it simpler for growers to get hold of products, as well as being good for our members."