Powerful lobby groups opposed to genetically modified (GM) food are threatening public acceptance of the technology in Europe, research suggests.
They are also hampering Europe's response to the global challenge of securing food supplies for current and future generations, researchers claim.
Drawing upon a decade of evidence, researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Warwick University say that Europe's regulation of GM crops has become less democratic and less evidence-based since the 1980s.
Anti-GM groups such as organic food lobbyists and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dominate the decision making process, they claim, resulting in greater restriction of plant biotechnology research and development in Europe compared with most other parts of the world.
Some developing countries resist GM crops, even though they might benefit from the reduced crop losses and increased yields of GM technology, because they would not be able to sell their produce in Europe, the researchers found.
Professor Joyce Tait of the University of Edinburgh's ESRC Innogen Centre, who took part in the research, said: "At a time when an increasing number of people are living in hunger and climate change threatens crops, the system that regulates GM food sources ought to become more based on evidence and less subject to the influence of politically motivated NGOs."
The findings, published in EMBO Reports
, were funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.