The chief scientific adviser to the European Commission has suggested member states are not capitalising on their own expertise in genetically modified food.
Europe appears to be in a “race for second place” by conducting highly regarded research but waiting for other countries to carry out the practical work afterwards, said Anne Glover, a former scientific adviser to the Scottish Government.
The comments come just weeks after the issue was raised at Holyrood, where political leaders were told to be bolder.
The Scottish Government opposes the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Ms Glover, a biologist, said: “People in North America and Asia do it first. It’s like we’re in the race to be second sometimes and that we’re almost giving away the crown jewels. It’s almost a form of madness.”
She said she supports GM food based on the evidence available and hopes governments will revisit their policies.
The polarised debate on the issue in different member states, shows people are not looking at the evidence forensically, she added.
Her support for GM also drew attacks on her motivation.
“I’m very disappointed to see my name being linked to big businesses, as though I’m in their pocket,” she said.
“I find it very upsetting that, because people do not agree with the science, they’re trying to discredit me. I’m influenced by evidence.
“I’m absolutely not trying to tell citizens of Europe to grow GM food, I just want them to look at the evidence. If they did, they might come to the conclusions as I have that there is no more harm eating GM food than conventional.”
The debate surfaced in the Scottish Parliament on 11 December with calls from Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser for the government to be bolder.
A ban on field trials of such crops is hindering work being done in Scotland, he said.