Dairy producers have warned that a Protected Designation of Origin application for Jersey butter could have a damaging effect on the UK dairy industry if granted.

Jersey Dairy originally made the application last December. Last week Defra began the national consultation process, which will last until 1 August. If the application succeeds, only butter made with milk from cows on the island of Jersey will be able to use the name.

Although the application only applies to butter, dairy industry representatives have expressed concern that it could pave the way for further applications to cover milk, cream, yoghurt and other dairy products produced on the island.

"We have to fight for our brands," said Jimmy Dickinson, managing partner of Huddersfield-based Longley Farm, the UK's major Jersey milk product manufacturer.

"For years we have worked hard building up the image of Jersey products, and now someone wants to take that image and deprive us of it."

The issue has divided the Jersey dairy industry into those who want exclusive rights to the Jersey name and those who do not want to see production geographically restricted.

Many producers have argued that consumers would be confused as products are made around the world using Jersey cows.

One possible solution to the ambiguity could be to call it Jersey Island Butter, said Dickinson. The issue will be a hot topic at the World Jersey Cattle Bureau conference, to be held on the island next week.

A senior dairy industry figure, who did not want to be named, said the application would be "very confusing for all the industry".

"Both Jersey cows and the island have an excellent image," added David Levick from consultants Kite. "I hope all those involved can work to positively promote the great range of products that can be produced from the Jersey cow, whether on or off the island."