Paterson speaking at the event

The food production sectors of the UK and Ireland should look to work more closely together in the coming years, according to DEFRA environment secretary Owen Paterson, who was speaking at this week's UK-Ireland Food Business Innovation Summit in Dublin.

The Republic of Ireland remains the top destination for the UK with exports of food, feed and drink worth £3.1 billion in 2011, while the UK imported £3.5bn worth of produce from Ireland in the same year.

'We have similar weather, we suffer from the same plant diseases and by tackling these issues together we can save time and money while maximising the benefits to the food and drink industry in the UK and Ireland,' said Paterson at the event, which was hosted by Teagasc (the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority).

Paterson also called for a single piece of legalisation on plant health biosecurity to be installed across both the UK and Ireland before going on to tell delegates, which included food executives and retailers, that DEFRA will continue to push for GM technology.

With GM crops produced on 12 per cent of the world's arable land in 2012, Paterson said the EU is being unnecessarily 'left behind on GM' due to conflicting views across member states.

Furthermore, Paterson also called for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform proposals to be kept 'simple'.

Paterson explained: 'When it comes to implementing the new CAP we must repeat the errors of the past as the previous government's system was far too complex.

'I believe there is a clear role for taxpayers' money in rewarding farmers for the public and environmental goods they provide for which there is no market mechanism; this is why I support Pillar 2, which can help rural development and improve the environment.'

DEFRA recently backed the recommendations of a new task force report on UK plant health security.