Greenpeace will not oppose trials involving genetically modified vitamin rice, the environmental group has said.

Benedikt Haerlin, a senior figure in Greenpeace International, told the World Life Sciences Forum in Lyon on Friday that ‘golden rice’ enriched with vitamin A was an exception to the group’s stance towards the release of GM crops into the environment.

Mr Haerlin revealed that a strong moral argument in favour of producing a crop that could alleviate blindness and diet deficiencies in developing countries is the main factor behind the decision.

“I feel that ‘golden rice’ is a moral challenge to our position. It is true there is a different moral context, whether you have an insecticidal or pesticide-resistant GM, or whether you have a GM product that serves a good purpose.”

‘Golden rice’ is being developed at the Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and will undergo field trials once laboratory tests are completed. The aim of the project is to artificially insert extra genes into rice plants to boost vitamin production. A similar project involving raising levels of iron in the plant is expected to get underway soon.