Critics of Lord Sainsbury, the Science Minster and a multi-million pound donor to the ruling UK Labour Party, have accused him of abusing his position to persuade consumers to accept genetically modified foods.

Sainsbury, a known supporter of GM technology, has shares in Innotech - an investment firm with interests in several biotechnology companies - that rose in value from £26.9m (US$39.1m) in 1998 to £42.6m at the end of 2000, it was reported last night. Critics claim his shares in Innotech amount to a conflict of interests.

The media has seized on the revelation, which follows news that the Labour Party accepted a sizeable donation from the publisher of, among other titles, pornography magazines.

However, the Department for Trade and Industry has stressed that Lord Sainsbury's business interests are managed in a blind trust, and that his department does not, in any case, control policy on GM food and technology.