Defra undersecretary Lord de Mauley told the event that GM crops widely grown in other parts of the world are failing to break through in this country, in part because of the slow approval process in the EU.
"We want the EU regime to work more effectively," he said. "Of course, we must be careful and base business decisions on safety. But safe GM products should have more access to the markets in the UK."
Spearhead International chief executive Tom Green said GM policy should be driven by objective analysis and not shaped by "narrow single-interest groups". He added that Britain should be at the forefront of R&D.
"Let us learn lessons from the last two decades and avoid steering GM technology away from the UK to Europe," he urged.
"What a tragedy if innovations made here and funded by our taxpayers only become commercial elsewhere in the world."