Biotechnology companies, who argue they could help solve the global food crisis, are hoping for a boost on Wednesday as regulators attempt to overcome the deadlock over growing genetically modified food in the European Union. With just one crop, an insect-resistant maize, approved for cultivation in the past decade and after several governments instituted GM bans in recent months, in violation of EU law, the European Commission has called for a rethink of the process.

European Union plans to restrict chemical use by farmers in Europe could reduce harvests at a time of global food shortages, farmers, academics, regulators and pesticide makers warned yesterday. Crops such as apples and hops could no longer be grown on the continent if EU draft plans are not amended, they said. Wheat and potato yields could drop by almost a third, according to industry-sponsored research.

With prices of commercial and residential property falling, investors are increasingly turning to a more traditional asset: farmland. Long seen as a declining industry, farming has received a fillip in the last few months as global demand for food has increased. As a result, the cost of agricultural holdings across the European Union has risen to record levels.

The European Union has broken through in efforts to lessen its dependence on Russian natural gas with a concrete offer of extra supplies from Turkmenistan. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU external relations commissioner, said the Turkmen president had last week guaranteed that 10bn cubic metres of gas a year would be available for the EU. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's pledge comes amid intense competition for access to Turkmenistan's huge gas reserves since the death last year of Saparmurat Niyazov, its isolationist former leader.