The debate over the use of genetically modified crops looks set to enter a new phase after it emerged that European leaders have drawn up plans for a major new push to ease public concerns over the controversial technique.

Representatives of all 27 European Union member countries have attended a series of private meetings in recent months with discussions focusing on how to “speed up” the introduction of GM crops and “deal with” widespread public opposition to their use.

Minutes of the meetings reveal that political leaders want “agricultural representatives” and “industry” to play a greater role combating the so-called “vested interests” of environmentalists, according to the Independent on Sunday.

Defra food and farming director Sonia Phippard represented the UK at the meetings, which were called by EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

The move looks set to mark a new phase in the ongoing debate over the use of GM crops, which is still widely opposed by the public in the UK despite claims by farmers and the biotech industry that GM could improve yields.