A blunt warning has been issued to MEPs in Brussels by a leading UK tillage specialist against the perceived over-zealous and ill-considered banning of important pesticides.

John Chinn, the Chairman of the UK's Centre for Applied Crop Science, was nominated by UK MEP Anthea McIntyre to make a presentation in the EU Parliament.

He told MEPs that the EU was not performing well in its gauging of risk management, when approving or banning plant protection products such as insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.

Chinn said that a failure to distinguish between hazard and risk is an essential part of the confusion about perceived threats from or to our environment.

He explained: "In general, hazard identification is easy and often speculative. Risk evaluation is generally complex and demanding."

"There is an extraordinary disregard for well-documented risks while others, of marginal significance, distort public and private spending decisions.

These factors, coupled with a perverse preference for natural toxicity over synthetic safety, lead to an indifferent performance in risk management in the community.

After the hearing, Ms. McIntyre said: "It was really good to hear from someone with a wealth of first-hand experience, a detailed grasp of the subject and a great deal of common sense - a commodity often in short supply here! Mr Chinn was very polite and very scientifically precise in his language - but he made no secret of his low opinion of some large parts of the EU's performance in this area.

"His basic warning was that effective and low-risk products were being denied to farmers, when using them would improve food security and benefit the environment. He concluded by telling the Committee that, with new technologies, we can achieve the twin goals of increased agricultural production and an enhanced environment.

"I was pleased that his message chimed so closely with my own recent report on Technological Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture, which emphasised the need for innovation, new techniques and scientific advances to be adopted across all sectors of agriculture – in order to feed a growing population without damaging the environment."