The newly appointed Science minister, Lord Sainsbury, said that although he was "not concerned personally" about eating GM foods, "this is a case where choice for the consumer is very important". He added: "I think it was very unfortunate that when these foods were introduced it was fairly difficult for people to give clear labelling on their products from the start."
The main area of contention has been the arrival of foods made with GM soya, grown since 1986 from seeds made by the giant Monsanto corporation. American soya farmers have consistently refused to separate GM soya from traditional varieties at harvest, and processors who turn it into flour or oil have been unable to distinguish the two types.
That in turn has led to disquiet that soya, used in more than half of the foods in supermarkets, could contain GM elements without being labelled.
A spokesman for Monsanto said yesterday: "We will always remain responsive to decisions made by the food industry."Reuse content