Growing genetically modified crops on a commercial scale would be of little economic benefit to the UK, a government report has said.

The Strategy Unit study into the cost and benefits of growing GM crops said that although existing GM crops would offer some advantages to British farmers in terms of cost and convenience, there were few short-term benefits.

"Any economic argument is likely to be limited, at least in the short-term," Reuters quoted the report as saying.

"Only a narrow range of existing GM crops are currently suited to UK conditions, and weak consumer demand is likely to limit take-up," the report concluded.

The report also argued, however, that the commercial growing of GM crops could have longer-term advantages to farmers and consumers, particularly if plants were modified to contain extra nutrients or to help reduce allergies.

It accepted that consumer resistance to GM crops would limit the benefits of growing them. "In the short term, negative consumer attitudes can be expected to limit the demand for products containing GM foods, and therefore the economic value of the current generation of GM crops," it said.

The report by the Strategy Unit, a government-funded research body, will be presented to the government as a contribution to future policy decisions about GM crops and food.