UK environment secretary pushes for GM crops

UK environment secretary Owen Paterson says genetically modified food should be grown and sold widely in the UK, dismissing consumer opposition to the technology as ''complete nonsense.''

The remarks come as ministers prepare to relax controls on the cultivation of GM crops, which he said had ''real environmental benefits''.

According to some senior government figures the technology could increase crop yields and prevent disease and was essential in assuring the UK's future food security and to avoid dependency on imports.

Though a move to allow the use of GM crops could be highly controversial, Paterson however, dismissed critics of the technology as ''humbugs'' and added that the case for GM food now needed to be made ''emphatically''.

The comments are likely to alarm opponents of GM food, who fear that the crops could cause environmental damage and may even be harmful to human health.

The government has so far allowed limited cultivation trials for GM food and the technology's widespread use remains effectively banned. Though some imported foods contain GM products most supermarkets have banned the ingredients from their own-brand products given the public misgivings over safety.