The Government could adopt a new approach to genetically modified (GM) food crops, David Cameron indicated as he pledged the UK to be “pro-science”.
The Prime Minister told an audience in east London of scientists and entrepreneurs at an innovation summit linked to the UK’s leadership of the G8 group of the world’s richest nations: “We need to make sure we are a very pro-science country. I think there are one or two subjects there we need to take on. I think it’s time we had a really good look again at GM food and all of that.
“I think we need to be open to be open to arguments from science.”
Advocates of GM argue it increases crop yields, avoids the need for pesticides, and could help assure Britain’s food security.
The Government is reported to be ready to call for European Union restrictions on cultivation of the crops for human consumption to be relaxed.
The coalition has allowed small-scale cultivation trials but widespread use is effectively banned.
Some GM products are contained in imported foods, but most supermarkets have banned the ingredients from their own-brand products because of public unease about the material.
Mr Cameron used the innovation event to launch a prize fund, with £1m of taxpayers’ money, to encourage revolutionary ideas aimed at solving the world’s biggest problem.
He said the modern version of the 1714 Longitude Prize would be a Britain’s Got Talent for innovators.
He said. “There are so many problems in our world that need that amazing solution, whether it is a cure for dementia, solving the problem of diabetes, having a flight from Britain to New York that’s carbon free. Let’s challenge the public and challenge the scientists for which is the great problem we want to crack.
“Let’s actually get the nation engaged on what the biggest problems are in science and in our lives that we need to crack, with a multi-million pound prize to then help us do that.”
Mr Cameron was challenged during audience questions about the Government’s immigration controls. The Prime Minister said: “That in my view should not get in the way of business talent coming here, that is why we excluded from all of our caps and changes intra-company transfers.”
He added that the entrepreneur’s visa was aimed at people starting firms in the UK.