Genetically modified potatoes that resist blight will be planted in England, after Defra gave the go-ahead for trials next year.

BASF will plant in Derbyshire and Cambridgeshire to see how the crop performs in British conditions, but it must ensure that the fields are cleaned up afterwards and no potatoes find their way into the food chain.

The firm is confident it will avoid a repeat of last May's trials in Co Meath, Ireland, which were abandoned, to applause from environmentalists. BASF said at the time it had 18 days from authorisation to plant the crops and decided to postpone the trial.

"Whilst there was a small protest, it had no impact on our decision," said a BASF spokeswoman. "People in the UK understand the need to carry out R&D here and no one mentions GM as their top worry."

But the English trial

has reawakened the "Frankenfood" fears of environmentalists, who remain adamant that GM trials are dangerous.

"We don't need GM

potatoes and there is no consumer demand for them," said a spokesman for Friends of the Earth.

"The county council and the food industry have raised concerns about the impact, should the trials go ahead." Even the British Potato Council was reluctant for the trials to go ahead, for fear of alienating consumers.

Retailers say they have no stance on GM beyond supplying what consumers want. "It's clear that even now, there is overwhelming opposition to GM products among shoppers," said a BRC spokesman. "If there were sufficient demand from customers, retailers will stock these products."

But, if research is to be believed, attitudes are changing. According to the Food Standards Agency's annual Consumer Attitudes to Food Standards survey, fewer than one in five people chose genetic modification from a list of potential concerns - down from one in four in 2004.