A plan by Cyprus to put genetically modified food on separate supermarket shelves has angered the United States, which warned the move could harm bilateral ties, according to the Reuters news agency.

The US had sent a letter to the Cypriot parliament warning that the move by the European Union country would stigmatise biotech goods and could contravene Cyprus' obligations as a World Trade Organisation member, deputies said.

Under EU legislation, each state is free to display biotech food as it wishes.

The bloc has tough rules for the labelling of food that contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. If conventional food contains more than 0.9% of authorised GMOs, it must be labelled as such throughout the 25-nation bloc.

"We want to put better information at consumers' disposal on what they are buying," said George Perdikis, a member of the Greens' Party which tabled the proposal in parliament.

A note which Perdikis said was released by the American Embassy in Nicosia, and which was seen by Reuters, urged parliamentarians to oppose passage of the bill.

"The bill is in essence a poke in the eye of the US which is the leading developer and producer of agricultural biotech products," the note read.

"The bill is tantamount to a non-tariff barrier to trade in biotech goods and as such is in violation of your obligations as a member of the WTO. It may also be inconsistent with your obligations as an EU member," the note states.

Perdikis, a junior partner in Cyprus's centre-left government coalition, said he came across the note in his parliamentary documents.

"This is blackmail. It speaks of harming bilateral relations. It is very serious," he said.
Cypriots had consistently showed in polls that they were sensitive to the issue and needed more information, he said.

US diplomats in Nicosia were not immediately available for comment, Reuters said.