By Julia Day

The UK government has today called for an “radical rethink” of food production in the country. And unsurprisingly, genetically modified crops are at the centre of the plans.

Hilary Benn, the UK environment minister, suggested GM farming could help to increase Britain’s crop production as he set out plans to make the country more self-sufficient in food.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said investigations in to new techniques in order to discover the “facts” about them, are needed: “If GM can make a contribution then we have a choice as a society and as a world about whether to make use of that technology, and an increasing number of countries are growing GM products,” Mr Benn said.

“And the truth is we will need to think about the way in which we produce our food, the way in which we use water and fertiliser, we will need science, we will need more people to come into farming because it has a bright future.

“Because one thing is certain – with a growing population, the world is going to need a lot of farmers and a lot of agricultural production in the years ahead.”

The government’s food strategy for the future will be published later in the year, drawing on responses to the consultation launched today, said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. But today’s consultation does not go far enough, according to The Guardian’s Feleicty Lawrence.

We have various resources at the STEPS Centre that take a look at this topic. Our recently launched Biotechnology Research Archive gives access to ten years of research in to genetically-modified crops, development and the global food crisis

Our latest Working Paper, Undying Promise: Agricultural Biotechnology’s Pro-poor Narrative,
Ten Years on
, by Dominic Glover is available to download for free online, and the paper’s bite-sized briefing – for a quick overview – can be seen here.

Ian Scoones, STEPS co-director, has written a backgrounder entitled GM Crops; 10 Years On, plus there is a iD21 viewpoint and an Eldis biotechnology Key Issues Guide.

Meanwhile Erik Millstone, the STEPS Centre’s food /agriculture co-convenor, and Professor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex, in SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research has been researching into the causes, consequences and regulation of technological change in the food and chemical industries since 1974.

Professor Millstone has published extensively on issues concerning food safety policy-making and the evolution of food policy institutions and his books include The Atlas of Food: who eats what, where and why, University of California Press and Earthscan 2008.