Westcountry farmers must embrace genetically-modified food if they are to secure their future and Britain's place in an increasingly competitive agricultural world.
That is the message Environment Secretary Owen Paterson delivered to the Oxford Farming Conference as he urged farmers to keep pace with the demands of a growing global population.
"GM needs to be considered in its proper overall context with a balanced understanding of the risks and benefits," he told an audience of 500 at the Oxford Farming Conference. "But we should not be afraid of making the case to the public about the potential benefits of GM beyond the food chain – significantly reducing the use of pesticides and inputs such as diesel."
With the European Union's negative approach to GM, there was a need to adopt positive steps to ensure the safety of GM crops, he said.
"We are talking with the EU on this all the time," said Mr Paterson. "But I think the rules are holding back our farmers. There are only two GM products licensed in the EU and there should be much more. The whole process is going grindingly slowly."
He said suggestions that GM technology was new and frightening was total nonsense. Mr Paterson added: "In 2011 there were 16 million farmers in 29 countries growing GM products on 160 million hectares."
He said it was vital to create conditions where GM development could go ahead unhindered in the UK – and attract top research scientists here to ensure it could happen.