The European Parliament will tomorrow [Wednesday] vote on new a labelling regime for genetically modified foods that would require labelling for all products containing more than 0.5% of GM organisms.

The vote is intended to progress the European deadlock on GM labelling by introducing new rules. Some EU Member States have taken the position that they will not licence any new GM foods until a clear, comprehensive labelling and traceability regime is implemented.

Meanwhile, the British government and prime minister Tony Blair have asked British Members of the European Parliament to vote against the new rules, saying that the British consumer is not overly concerned about genetic modification. This would seem to fly in the face of the stance of retailers, who have largely banned GMOs from their own-label ranges in response to consumer protest.

The British government is hoping that the rule by which products can contain up to 1% of GM material without being labelled will be reinstated, despite the Environment Committee's calls for an upper permitted limit of 0.5%.

Environmental pressure groups are infuriated by the British government's stance, saying that it derives from pressure from the US, where GM is more widely accepted.

The case could lead to a full-blown trade dispute between the EU and the US, which has threatened to fight any restrictive EU ruling in the World Trade Organisation, alleging it could constitute a barrier to trade.