While the majority of Europe's governments have been voting against proposals for new GM crop varieties to be imported or grown and used for food in Europe, the greater voting power Britain has over smaller countries in the EU means the UK's pro-GM position has always won out.

However, the GM lobby's apparent political successes have never translated into the marketplace. There are no GM crops growing in this country and there has been almost no use of GMOs in food apart from animal feed.

Why? Because there is simply no market for GM foods. The UK supermarkets and many food manufacturers have done what the government failed to do - respond to the strong public opposition by adopting strict non-GM policies. It's easy to see why engaging with GM foods, even in a small way, is highly risky.

In Europe, unlike in the US, all GM food has to be labelled. Health problems or contamination of non-GM foods can prompt massive product recalls and litigation, as the US food and agriculture industry has experienced.That's why a couple of trials of GM potatoes is unlikely to usher in wider use here. Already the farmer of one of the trials has pulled out, leaving just the site in south Cambridgeshire, and similar potato trials in Ireland were abandoned last year because of food and farming groups' opposition.

Potatoes are the last crop British people would accept GM varieties of. They are a staple food, with a healthy, wholesome image. GM potatoes are not used anywhere in the world. Although GM varieties were accepted in the US for some major animal feed crops, they were rejected by McDonald's, Burger King, McCain and Pringles.

Attempts at introducing GM staple foods in the US have failed because of opposition by the food industry. And it was in GM potatoes that the first evidence of health risks surfaced. Government-funded animal feeding trials found GM potatoes caused abnormal growths in the gut, which could lead to haemorrhaging or cancer. A trial by a different team with a different GM potato variety found the same effects.

Subsequently there has been significant scientific progress supporting the anti-GM case. The original concerns over the health impacts of the GM process are now confirmed by several controlled animal feeding trials published in scientific journals. These highlight a range of undesirable effects of GM consumption, including unexplained deaths, changes in body organs and strong immunological responses. FSA trials with human volunteers also found that eating GM foods resulted in some of the inserted 'transgenic' material transferring into the bacteria in our gut.

The only real fear we have with GM potatoes is that they could be intended for non-food use such as industrial starch. The biotech industry is trying to use non-food uses to establish widespread GM crops in Europe, which would spark less public reaction than growing GM potatoes for food but would still pose a threat.

If GM varieties are grown, contamination of food potatoes is inevitable, as the government admits. Contamination is a high risk with this potato trial as 'abundant flowering' varieties will be used.

We urge the UK food industry to adopt the same pro-consumer stance as the US industry did and tell the government and BASF of its opposition to the potato trial and any commercial GM production.

Gundula Azeez is the policy manager of the Soil Association.