That’s the view of John Stevenson MP, chairman of the All-Party Group for Food and Drink Manufacturing.
Stevenson said he welcomed recent pro-GM statements by environment secretary Owen Paterson, but said there needed to be a broad range of voices promoting its benefits.
“I give full credit to the secretary of state for trying to get the debate going again. I am very much supportive of him and I think it is something that we as a society have to look at,” said Stevenson.
“I suspect that industry does not want to take the lead and I fully understand that, so therefore it falls on academics, government and the wider public to debate the issues and ask whether this is something Britain is prepared to do and put in the appropriate safeguards.”
Stevenson predicted that food security would become a major political theme over the next five to 10 years and said it was inevitable that GM products would hit supermarket shelves.
“I think with a rising population it is inevitable and with a lot of the rest of the world already having accepted GM, I think it is something we need to do as well.
“The danger is, if we don't, we get left behind and the food technology and products go elsewhere along with the institutions and the experts. If we decide in 10 or 15 years to get involved, the benefit may have gone elsewhere. This is not just an issue for the UK, it is one for the whole of Europe.”
Not take decades
When pushed on when he would like to see GM products on sale, Stevenson said he hoped it would not take decades and added that politicians and industry would have to proceed at a pace consumers were comfortable with.
“The need for higher yields will drive this to a certain extent,” he added. “I suspect that the poor harvests of last year in Britain and abroad may well have an impact on prices in which case that might increase the level of debate even further.”
Last month agrifood group BASF announced it was abandoning efforts to gain EU authorisation for three GM potatoes after over a decade of investment and research. The company said: “Investment cannot be justified due to uncertainty in the regulatory environment and threats of field destructions.”