Michael Gove said Britain’s exit from the EU will coincide with “bio-tech changes” on the horizon which will “challenge us to think about the future”.
And the Environment Secretary added that gene editing could be used to create “more valuable livestock”.
But he also admitted there were “political and moral questions” about the controversial technology, and the science is still in its “infancy”.
He said: “Gene editing technology could help us to remove vulnerabilities to illness, develop higher yielding crops or more valuable livestock, indeed potentially even allow mankind to conquer the diseases to which we are vulnerable.
“I think we should have an open mind about that technology and not allow debates from the past to influence how we look at that technology.”
Mr Gove also revealed that the Government intends to create a new “gold-standard” for food labelling to signify British quality after Brexit.
And he announced farming subsidies will be replaced by payments for “public goods”, from boosting access to the countryside to recreating wildflower meadows.
In a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, the Environment Secretary set out plans for food and farming after Brexit, including a switch away from what he called the “unjust and inefficient” subsidies paid through the European Union.
Mr Gove outlined how he wants to see taxpayers’ money going in future years to environmental protection, increasing public access to the countryside, and on technology, skills, infrastructure, and supporting rural communities.
Speaking ahead of the Government’s agriculture plans being published in the spring, which will be put out for consultation, the Environment Secretary said he envisaged farm payments continuing for five years from 2019.
But during that time, he aims to curb the largest subsidies, with a maximum cap or a sliding scale of reductions.
And in the future, taxpayers’ money would only go on paying for public goods that the market does not provide.
Mr Gove told the conference: “Building on previous countryside stewardship and agri-environment schemes, we will design a scheme accessible to almost any land owner or manager who wishes to enhance the natural environment by planting woodland, providing new habitats for wildlife, increasing biodiversity, contributing to improved water quality and returning cultivated land to wildflower meadows or other more natural states.
“We will also make additional money available for those who wish to collaborate to secure environmental improvements collectively at landscape scale.”
He also said that ensuring public access to the countryside was a public good, though he acknowledged it was a “contentious issue”.
But Labour’s Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee which recommended a move to environmental payments a year ago, said the changes would come two years later than planned and apply to England only.
The SNP’s Angus MacNeil said: “While Michael Gove talks about transitional arrangements for farmers until 2024, the Tories have still to rule out a power grab of Scottish powers over agriculture when the UK leaves the European Union.”
He added: “Far from the extra money we were told we’d have as we saw on the side of the bus, farmers will be lucky to receive what they’re currently getting – this is not good enough.”