The government has come under fire from anti-GM campaigners for offering more financial support to the biotechnology industry than to the organic industry.

Friends of the Earth said it had obtained figures showing the government provided £49m of public funding for research and training in the biotech sector in 2006, while just £1.6m was spent on such work in organics.

It called for a fairer distribution of cash to reflect the importance of organic food to consumers.

"Government support for GM is out of proportion to its non-existent benefits," claimed FoE campaigner Clare Oxborrow.

"It is handing out millions of pounds for a technology that has fallen flat on its face.

"The government is starving organic farming, which offers clear benefits to shoppers, farmers and the economy, but is threatened by GM contamination."

The organic sector needed more funding, agreed Laurence Woodward, director of Elm Farm Research.

"Organic farming is still immature. We need more research to achieve the product quality that consumers want," he said.

However, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council accused Friends of the Earth of overstating the connection between biotech research and the development of GM crops, and claimed the charity had itself called for more money to be spent on investigating GM technology.

"Not all research by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council relates to GM crops," said chairman Julian Little. "It often has benefits for the organic and conventional growing sectors as well."

He played down news that EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas had called for two genetically modified maize varieties to be suspended and French president Nicolas Sarkozy had ordered a moratorium on new GM plantings.