Wheat spills onto a worker

Ten years later: A new push for genetic modification

Ten years later: A new push for genetic modification

The environment secretary was renewing the push for widespread use of genetically modified (GM) crops today, nearly a decade after it was effectively ruled out across the EU.

Owen Paterson warned that the UK and Europe risk being left behind because of their aversion to the technology and that it could help cure medical ailments as well as alleviate world hunger.

"At the moment, Europe is missing out," Paterson said.

"While the rest of the world is ploughing ahead and reaping the benefits of the new technologies, Europe risks being left behind."

Paterson suggested GM technology could be as transformative as the agricultural revolution and is entirely safe for human consumption.

There is some movement in Europe. Two crops are approved for commercial growing and another seven are awaiting authorisation.

Environmentalists reacted with outrage to the news. There are widespread concerns about cross-pollination, which could replace tradition crops with GM versions beyond their designated area.

The US food industry has made much more considerable use of GM technology than Europe.