Irish trials of genetically modified potatoes, which had provoked protests by food producers and environmentalists, have been called off for this year - and may now never go ahead.

BASF, the German chemical giant, had been given permission by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for five-year trials of the blight-resistant potatoes on a farm in County Meath.

This was in the face of opposition by local farmers and others, who claimed the trials could contaminate neighbouring crops and undermine the 'green and clean' image used to promote Irish food on international markets.

Recognising this, the EPA imposed strict conditions on the project, including stipulations that the potatoes be sown immediately and that BASF foot the bill for independent monitoring, to guard against contamination. BASF said the planting deadline was too tight and the other conditions too stringent for it to go ahead this year.

A spokesman complained that "the Irish authorities are imposing conditions that are not common in other EU states", and said the company had been carrying out similar potato trials in Sweden for eight years without any problems.

He said BASF would now discuss the conditions with the EPA, and assess their cost and other implications before deciding whether to go ahead next year.

Protest campaigners hailed the postponement as a victory and called on the EPA to rescind its original decision. Green Party leader Trevor Sargent, a member of the Irish parliament, said: "We should use this opportunity to ensure that Ireland remains a GM-free food-producing island."

A lobby group, GM-Free Ireland, praised local farmers and food producers for "being in the forefront of this campaign".