Robert Bertram of the U.S. Agency for International Development told a conference in Bangkok that for the developing world the benefits of new genetic technology far outweigh the potential risks.
"In the next 20 years, food production will need to increase by 40 percent in order to keep pace with population growth. The largest increases will need to take place in Asia," he said.
Bertram said the controversy over genetically modified foods is a luxury only rich and well-fed countries can afford. He said Asian nations risk not being able to feed their populations in the decades ahead if they don't use genetically modified crops.
Clive Pegg, Aventis CropScience speaker, said it was virtually impossible to prove absolute safety for either new or old technologies.
"But these risks are manageable and worth taking," he said. "The greatest risk is that the genetic revolution and new technologies will bypass the poor and establish a global technological apartheid."