Rising food prices could provide a ‘window of opportunity’ in terms of convincing consumers that GM technology may have a role in UK agriculture.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, told the NFU Centenary Conference that activists had “poisoned the well” in the UK when it came to GM crops.

“But with the debate we are having over higher food prices there may be a window of opportunity here,” he said.

“In the US nearly 70% of products on our store shelves include some product that was grown with GM technology.

“Never has there been a human case of harm coming from GM technology – and that is after 10 years of consuming them.”

Work together through the supply chain

Iain Ferguson, chief executive of Tate & Lyle, said as a nation we had to face up to the issue of genetic modification and rise to the challenge of helping to foster a fair and scientific debate.

“I recognise that this is not easy and that we do not start with a clean sheet of paper, but other countries are tackling this.

“We need to work together through the supply chain – government, farmers, food processors and retailers – to overcome this challenge and most of all give consumers a reason to trust us and open up the debate.

“The current economic climate with rising food prices and concerns over the long term availability of commodities may well give is the opportunity to begin to do this.”