The debate over GM crops was reignited this week as Defra hit back at claims it was backing a farmer-led campaign to introduce GM crops to the UK.

The department said it knew of no such campaign and would stick to the precautionary principle when considering applications.

"The sensible approach is to consider GM crops on a case-by-case basis, provided the evidence shows that they are safe for human health and the environment," said Defra secretary of state Hilary Benn. "Ultimately it will be for farmers and consumers to decide whether they want GM products."

The NFU confirmed there was no campaign, but said ministers could no longer hide their heads in the sand over GM crops.

Friends of the Earth said consumers were against GM. "Rather than backing this expensive, risky technology, the government should fund organic farming methods and local food," said campaigner Claire Oxborrow.