posted by: MichaelP <papadop@PEAK.ORG>
INDEPENDENT (Sunday) March 8
I was right, says GM row scientist
ALARMING evidence that eating genetically modified (GM) food may harm
health is to be presented to MPs tomorrow, writes Geoffrey Lean. The
previously suppressed research by Dr Arpad Pusztai shows vital organs may
be damaged and immune systems weakened, making epidemics worse and
The research, to be submitted to the House of Commons Select Committee on
Science and Technology, is likely to reignite the controversy over Dr
Pusztai, of Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute, who sparked a fierce
scientific and political row last month.
Until now the dispute has centred on only skimpy accounts of his research,
funded by the Scottish Office, because his data - based on 10,000 samples
from rats fed GM and ordinary potatoes - were "confiscated" and his
computer sealed when he made his concerns known on television last summer.
Dr Pusztai was suspended, forced into retirement, and his research stopped.
He has only now recovered the evidence and subjected it to independent
analysis for the first time. He will not give details before the results
are seen by MPs, but says they broadly confirm his preliminary findings.
INDEPENDENT (Sunday) March 8
How I told the truth and was sacked
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent
NO ONE, says Dr Arpad Pusztai, could have been more surprised to find rats
he had given genetically modified (GM) food developing alarming
ill-effects. He had been "a very enthusiastic supporter" of the technology,
and fully expected his experiments to give it "a clean bill of health", he
"I was totally taken aback; no doubt about it," he told the Independent on
Sunday last week. "I was absolutely confident I wouldn't find anything. But
the longer I spent on the experiments, the more uneasy I became."
His unexpected findings have landed him, bewildered, in one of the hottest
scientific controversies for years. They have abruptly ended his career,
and destroyed his international reputation. He was magisterially rebuked by
a score of Britain's most august Fellows of the Royal Society, attacked by
a collaborator on the study, and accused by Sir Robert May, the
Government's respected Chief Scientific Adviser, of violating "every canon
of scientific rectitude". Only now is he able to reply.
I spent nearly six hours with him in his modest semi-detached home in
Aberdeen on Wednesday, as he told his side of the story in full for the
first time. He is a small, vital man - grey-faced with the strain (he has
recently had a minor heart attack which he ascribes to it), but retaining a
self-deprecating humour - he spoke of the "intolerable burden" of being
unable to clear his name.
>From the day after he briefly mentioned some of his findings on television
>in August until three weeks ago, he was bound to confidentiality by his
>employer for 37 years, Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute. Since then he
>has been preparing to make his case before the House of Commons Select
>Committee on Science and Technology tomorrow.
"All I need is a chance," he said. "For the past seven months I haven't had
one. I could not even defend myself against very heinous accusations.
Sometimes I felt I should just get on a plane and go away. I couldn't take
It has been a devastating end to a brilliant career. He is the son of a
Hungarian wartime resistance hero and fled when the 1956 rising was
suppressed. But he had published his first scientific papers while still at
university, and the Ford Foundation found him in an Austrian refugee camp.
They gave him a scholarship to study anywhere in the world he chose.
He picked Britain, partly "because I knew I was an odd sort of guy, and the
country then had a certain tolerance". He was recruited to the Institute in
1963 personally by Dr Richard Synge, a Nobel prizewinner in chemistry.
Dr Pusztai, 68, has published 270 scientific papers, and the Institute
acknowledges he became "probably the world's expert" on lectins, proteins
used in genetic modification. So valuable was his work he was asked to stay
on after retirement age.
His nemesis began in 1995, when his group beat 27 contenders to win a #1.6m
Scottish Office contract to test the effects of GM foods. He was
particularly interested because he could find only one previous
peer-reviewed study on feeding them to animals. It was led by a scientist
from Monsanto, the controversial GM company, and found no ill-effects.
Dr Pusztai fed rats on two strains of potatoes genetically engineered with
a lectin from snowdrop bulbs, a third with the snowdrop lectin simply added
and a fourth of ordinary potatoes.
He has been repeatedly accused by top politicians and scientists of merely
adding a poison to potatoes. But he says he spent six years up to 1990
proving the snowdrop lectin was safe, even at high concentrations - and it
is due to his work that it is used in genetic engineering at all.
To his surprise he found the immune systems and brains, livers, kidneys and
other vital organs of the rats fed the GM potatoes were damaged, but not
those of the rats fed the ordinary ones or those simply spiked with the
lectin. This, he says, suggests the genetic modification could be largely
By last summer, he says, the Scottish Office money was running out, and the
Institute refused funding. He therefore agreed to appear in a World in
Action documentary, with the Institute's support, to raise the profile of
the work in the hope of attracting funds. He says the Institute's press
officer sat through the interview and no objection had been raised to what
he had said in the seven weeks before screening on 10 August last year.
He was "absolutely surprised" his brief comments hit the headlines, but the
Institute put out press releases supporting him the same day, and the next.
But on 12 August he was suspended from work on the experiments. The study
He worked out his contract until the end of the year, but found himself
"sent to Coventry" by his colleagues. His computers were "sealed" and all
his data from the experiments "confiscated". Dr Pusztai was forced into
An audit committee of four scientists, set up by the Institute, reviewed
his work and disagreed with his conclusions. He says he was given three
days to write a reply, without access to his full data.
This reply, which the Institute put on the internet, has been attacked as
"unpublishable". He agrees and says this is hardly surprising given the
limitations. He has also been condemned for not publishing a refereed
scientific paper in the normal way. He says this was impossible without
access to the complete data, which he has only just recovered.
Martin Polden, of the law firm Ross and Craig and president of the
Environmental Law Foundation, who has taken up Dr Pusztai's case, says this
is "a classic case for the need for openness in science". The Institute
says it has nothing to add to previous statements.
Dr Pusztai insists: "I believe in the technology. But it is too new for us
to be absolutely sure that what we are doing is right. But I can say from
my experience if anyone dares to say anything even slightly contra-
indicative, they are vilified and totally destroyed."
But surely others will do the same research elsewhere? "It would have to be
a very strong person. If I, with my international reputation, can be
destroyed, who will stand up?"
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **
next article posted by MichaelP <firstname.lastname@example.org>
London TIMES March 5 1999
WATER companies are demanding a moratorium on the commercial planting of
genetically modified crops amid fears that chemicals used on them may
pollute rivers, lakes and reservoirs.
The water industry fears that widespread planting of herbicide-tolerant
crops, such as oil seed rape and sugar beet, might lead to problems in
meeting the strict legal limits on the levels of individual weed and
pest-killing chemicals in drinking water. The companies are concerned that
they may face multimillion-pound bills to put in herbicide removal
technologies at water treatment works.
A spokesman for Water UK, the industry's body, said: "We have genuine
concerns about the widespread use of crops which rely on just two
chemicals, so we favour a go-slow, a moratorium. We need time to find the
answers. We need several years." An industry team of environmental and
scientific experts is to meet for the first time this month, to investigate
the possible effect on drinking water. English Nature, the Government's
wildlife advisers, has called for a three to five-year moratorium.
next 2 articles posted by Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew)
IRRESISTIBLE FORCE, IMMOVABLE OBJECT
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch; 03/01/99)
As the forces driving the biotechnology revolution advance upon the
citizens of the world, they are being thwarted by powerful counter-forces:
ignorance, fear and legitimate skepticism.
This should no longer come as a shock to **Monsanto**, the United States
and other countries with huge political clout and financial stakes in the
biotechnology revolution. The uproar over genetically engineered crops in
Europe and Asia should have taught them by now that they can't outmuscle an
uninformed, properly skeptical public. After all, they're messing with the
world's food supply, using technology most people don't understand.
People fear what they don't understand. And to most of the public,
including Americans, the principles and methods of biotechnology are a
cipher. The public has a right to be skeptical about biotechnology. Its
cultural, economic and unintended biological consequences could be as
profound and far-reaching.
Bullying and strong-arming are not the way to build public confidence in
new technology or the people selling it. Nor is it the way to address the
legitimate need to protect human health, cultural continuity and the
Earth's biodiversity. Yet that is precisely the behavior that the United
States and five other countries displayed at negotiations sponsored by the
United Nations last week in Cartagena, Columbia.
The purpose of the negotiations, attended by delegates from 138 countries,
was to write a "biosafety protocol," a set of rules to regulate the global
trade of genetically modified organisms. About 90 percent of the current
world trade in genetically modified foods involves corn and soy beans. The
negotiations grew out of the 1996 U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity,
an agreement that calls for protecting varieties of plants and animals. The
United States is the only major country in the world that refused to sign
The U.S. and other major grain exporters staked out a position that puts
economic gain ahead of environmental and health concerns. At the Colombian
conference they insisted that genetically modified grains and drugs be
exempt from rules. They also objected to: liability provisions in case of
an environmental accident; strict labeling requirements on products made
from genetically modified organisms and any rules that might interfere with
the booming international trade.
For large companies like **Monsanto** and its Swiss-based rival, Novartis,
biotechnology is the future of its products and prosperity. They say such
products also hold the promise of a better future for the poor in
developing countries. There, crops modified to produce higher yields could
feed more hungry people on shrinking amounts of arable land. Clearly, the
potential for good is enormous.
But good for whom? Some skeptics fear that a few large companies holding
the patents to genetically modified organisms could control much of the
world production of staple food crops. That is a legitimate concern. Others
worry about the safety of foods made from genetically modified organisms.
Developing countries don't want to be dumping grounds for foods with
untested new gene traits, and they resent American pushiness. They worry
what will happen if certain engineered traits, such as pest resistance,
accidentally spread to other crops. Could it cause an ecological disaster?
If so, who is held responsible for the damage, and how can it be undone?
The business of weighing risks and benefits is enormously complex. Neither
side in the biotechnology debate has anything to gain the longer the public
lacks the capacity to assess its benefits and risks.
It would be foolish to let those with financial and political self-interest
in genetically modified organisms make the rules about their use.
In fact, the American public and the citizens of the world won't stand for
it. We don't like being muscled by corporations impatient for returns on
their investments in biotechnology. We don't need "public perception
campaigns" and sales pitches to prepare the way for genetically modified
What we need is basic scientific education to help us learn more of the
brilliant promise of biotechnology. We need to have enough information to
ask the right questions about its potential for harm. We need to find ways
to assess risk. We need more carefully controlled studies of genetically
modified organisms. We need rational regulatory mechanisms - local,
national and global -
that ensure human health and environmental safety. We need trade
regulations that preserve economic stability. We need more public
discussion of biotechnology in the U.N. and at the local library.
They can start the biotech revolution without us. But without us it will fail.
Consumers wise to the real GM agenda
John Gray, Guardian International, 3 March 1999
THE Blair government's defence of genetically modified food marks a
watershed in its history. Over the past few weeks it has had to confront an
inconvenient truth. The global free market has become a political liability.
In what is likely to be a pattern in British politics over the coming
years, the initiative now lies with parties and pressure groups that voice
the public's reasonable fears about the costs and risks of global
capitalism. Over the past month the imperatives of global markets have
been on a collision course with public opinion. British consumers do not
want GM food and it is proving impossible to persuade them that they do.
Only last week the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that GM food
advertising by the biotechnology giant Monsanto was misleading. However,
the finding is not likely to have much effect on the long-term future of
such products in Britain.The public believes that scientific knowledge of
the effects of GM food is in its infancy. Rightly, it suspects that little
is known of its risks to human health and next to nothing about its effects
on the environment. There is a deep-seated public view that, given these
limitations, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Pooh-poohing the risks of GM food has proved to be self-defeating. The
British electorate is notably resistant to the combination of wide-eyed
techno-utopianism and stock market-fuelled greed that, together with
incessant lobbying by the genetic-industrial complex, has effectively
stifled debate on genetic engineering in the United States.
It is unwilling to defer to the authority of politicians who tell them they
are ignorant, hysterical and blind to undreamt-of prospects of progress.
This is something even the benighted Tories have understood.
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term
Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
contains more information on genetic engineering as well as
previous genetic engineering news items
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