A number of France's most famous wine names have called on the government to block attempts by scientists to grow genetically modified (GM) grapevines.

The winemakers, who include Chateau Latour, are warning that the emergence of GM vines  may ruin traditional wine-growing methods.

France's national agricultural research institute plans to cultivate GM vines in the Alsace over a small acreage, to test their resistance to fan leaf virus. According to reports in today's press, genes from the virus will be introduced into the vines as a kind of vaccine.

However, Aubert de Villaine, who oversees Romanee Cont was quoted in the UK's Daily Telegraph today, saying: "It would be an absolute nightmare. Winemaking has been developed over the course of several centuries, and still it is a fragile process. It risks being totally ruined."

Winemakers fear that although it may be fine to cultivate GM vines in a laboratory, planting them in the open risks infecting nearby traditionally-grown vines.

One winemaker has said that tests need to be run for at least 80- years before the impact on the wider environment of GM vines is known.

At present the institute has green light from the the national commission assigned with evaluating the advance of GM organisms in France.

All that is left before it can proceed with its work is the backing of the government.