My computer has been down for a few days
BBC Monday, March 8, 1999 Published at 19:56 GMT
The scientist at the centre of a row over the safety of
genetically-modified food has said he would raise concern about his
experiments again if he had to.
Dr Arpad Pusztai, a former researcher at the Rowett Research Institute in
Aberdeen, was giving evidence to the Commons Science and Technology
He became embroiled in a major political row after he aired concerns about
the results of his experiments on ITV's World In Action programme last
It has been claimed the animals used in one experiment showed slight growth
retardation, an effect on the immune system and changes in the weight of
their internal organs.
Dr Pusztai was accused of confusing the results and releasing data not yet
in the public domain.
The scientist told MPs the tests had not been carried out on a commercial
basis but the results had raised concerns.
He said: "What we had to put over, and I think I probably did it too well,
looking at it now, based on our experience, there ought to be a concern.
"When you say there is a concern they will probe into it what is this
Dr Pusztai said he was not sufficiently famous for anyone to take notice of
He told the committee that on the basis of experiments where it was
possible to see some affects on the growth, the immune system and organ
weights of rats "you have to say something".
Dr Pusztai went on: "You feel frustrated, you have to do something about it".
The scientist admitted he had been naive but said he would do the same
He said: "I would contest that what I found essentially it certainly gave
me a concern and it was very much shared by the institute this concern.
"In one sense what I achieved is that we are all sitting here and talking
Also giving evidence to the committee was the head of the Rowett Research
Institute Professor Philip James.
Dr Pusztai described how Professor James wrote to him giving his guidelines
on "what he could or could not do" following the controversy.
He said he did not know of any other scientist sacked and gagged in this way.
"It was a real shock to me," he told the committee.
Dr Pusztai continued: "This business of me going in on the programme was
very much a part of the normal of publicity you get nowadays. You have to
Professor James, in his evidence to the committee, said Dr Pusztai was not
sacked or retired with a gagging clause.
There was confusion in his group to what studies had been conducted and
outrage among his collaborators, said Professor James.
He denied that pressure from Whitehall or the Cabinet Office led to Dr
Pusztai's contract not being renewed.
The issue had shown the scientific world had underestimated the extreme
anxiety about food safety, said Professor James.
He told the committee: "We're in a new dimension relating to public health
The public were terrified about something they had no control about,
Professor James went on.
There had to be pro-active initiative to developing novel science to
enhance public confidence, he said.
His opinion was that in the future GM foods would be prevalent in the food
FARMERS FINDING NO MORE FAT TO CUT IN COTTON FIELDS
The Augusta Chronicle
Publication Date: March 07, 1999
Cotton farmers Johnathan Floyd and Chuck Lee have experienced problems
that would sink any business. They have tasted the dust of a
drought-stricken field and slogged through its rain-soaked mud a week
later. They've seen their sparse yield wasted on Asian and Russian
consumers too poor to pay. They have yet to see much of their 1997
income, which disappeared when a reputable cotton broker went bankrupt.
This year, cotton seeds that promised to resist worms and herbicide
produced only withered plants.
Monday, March 8, 1999
9) Conference scrutinizes designer food By Carol Harrington -- The Canadian
CALGARY - Canadians sorely lack unbiased information about genetically
altered food, even though the high-tech products are widely available on
store shelves, a conference concluded yesterday.
A panel of 15 volunteer citizens from Western Canada agreed people have the
right to know if their food is genetically altered. Yet the panel stopped
short of demanding all modified food is labelled as such.
"The panel is aware of a myriad of problems and complexities with
labelling," panelist Trevor Lien, a coffeehouse owner >from Regina, told
the three-day conference on food biotechnology sponsored by the University
After absorbing heaps of material on biotechnological foods and attending a
three-day conference, the panel made 17 recommendations on the issue.
The "public jury" recommended Canada develop and implement an effective
labelling policy, and a code of ethics for the biotechnological food
Future of biotechnology
"Our seventeen recommendations are the beginning of an uncertain but
absolute future for biotechnology," the panel said in a report.
"At this point, the technology leaves us with as many questions as there
There are 31 genetically altered plants on the shelves of Canadian
supermarkets, including tomatoes, wheat, corn, soybeans, and potatoes.
The Independent (London) March 9, 1999,
GM FOOD: SCIENTISTS CLASH OVER TESTS ON MODIFIED POTATOES
BYLINE: Steve Connor, Science Editor
Pusztai: Suspended over row on safety of GM food
TWO SCIENTISTS at the centre of the controversy over genetically modified
food clashed last night over crucial statements issued about the results
of experiments on rats fed on GM potatoes. Arpad Pusztai, who was
suspended last year from the Rowett Research Institute, near Aberdeen,
after suggesting GM food is unsafe, told the House of Commons Science and
Technology Committee he had never been shown press releases about his work
issued by the institute.
He said subsequent confusion in the press over what sort of lectin - plant
toxins - had been used in the experiment would not have arisen if he had
been able to see the press releases before they went out. His institute
said that Dr Pusztai had become confused about the "con A" lectin and
another lectin from the snowdrop plant, which is why he was suspended.
Dr Pusztai's boss, Philip James, the director of the Rowett institute,
told the committee Dr Pusztai had ample opportunity to correct any
inaccuracies in the press releases. This contradicted Dr Pusztai's
assurance to the committee that he had not seen the press releases until
they had been issued.
Professor James said that Dr Pusztai had referred to experiments on the
con A lectin, when these experiments had not in fact been carried out at
the time of his interview on television.
"It's been quite astonishing how events have been misrepresented,"
Professor James said. He said that Dr Pusztai had not only seen a copy of
the press release referring to the experiments but that he had rewritten a
part of it. "Dr Pusztai had actually presented information that turned out
to be untrue, there was confusion in his group and his collaborators were
outraged," Professor James said.
Dr Pusztai told the committee that after the television broadcast many
people phoned him about the con A lectin experiment, whereas in fact he
had referred only to the snowdrop lectin experiment. Dr Pusztai also said
he had not seen a press release issued by World in Action, which instigated
the publicity that led to his dismissal.
Calgary Herald March 09, 1999, FINAL SECTION:
Set biotech goals
BODY: While an attack of the killer tomatoes is not imminent, this past
weekend's conference on biotechnology illustrates an increasingly urgent
need for a protocol on genetically engineered food.
The science of designer foods -- changing the genetic makeup of potatoes,
for example, to make them more resistant to pests -- is developing at a
faster pace than the public's understanding of the issue.
In the same way that research on human genetics, such as cloning, has far
outstripped society's efforts to grapple with the moral implications, so
too are there dangers in tinkering with the world's food supply without
grasping the consequences. There are clearly many positives to biotech
products. Some genetically enhanced plants can better resist disease,
better tolerate harsh climates and, in some cases, provide improved
nutrition. But the effects of these new strains on humans, the environment
and other species, plus the potential for disruption of the world's food
production and distribution systems are still largely unknown.
As the conference's panel wisely recommended, Canada needs to establish
guidelines, set policy and outline goals before proceeding. Just because
scientists have the know-how to create this next generation of super
foods, doesn't necessarily mean that doing so is in the nation's best
Daily Record March 9, 1999, Tuesday SECTION: Page 20
HEADLINE: I'VE NO REGRETS ABOUT WARNING OVER GM FOODS;
HITTING BACK: MPs HEAR SCOTS SCIENTIST'S OWN STORY BODY:
THE scientist who sparked the Frankenstein food scare told MPs last night:
"I would do it all again." Dr Arpad Pusztai, who was forced to retire from
the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen following his claims, said people were
being used as "guinea pigs". He
said more needed to be known about genetically -modified food before it
was released to the public. And asked if his work raised new concerns over
GM foods, he told the Commons Science and Technology committee: "I think
Moments later, his former boss Professor Philip James - director of the
Rowett Institute - disputed what Pusztai had to say.
Mr James said that far from throwing Dr Pusztai to the wolves, he had
spent 48 hours defending him even though there were serious holes in his
scientific work. The row blew up last year when the scientist told World
in Action that rats he had fed on GM potatoes suffered stunted growth and
weight loss. Later, Dr Pusztai was suspended from the Rowett and his
findings discredited by Professor James. But last month, a group of
independent scientists said the Hungarian- born doctor was right and
pressure groups demanded a freeze on GM crops. At the height of the
ensuing media scare, Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly stated that his
family were happy to eat GM foods.
Yesterday, Dr Pusztai said the GM foods industry was being allowed to
develop on the basis of one scientific paper. He said: "That is not good
enough for me. This is a new technology. We must have a new technology in
Asked whether he still thought he was right to blow the whistle on GM
foods, Dr Pusztai said: "Yes. Yes. I have never changed my mind about it.
"What we had to put over and I think I possibly did it too well, was that
based on our experiments there ought to be a concern." Although Dr
Pusztai admitted he did not realise the significance of what he said on
World in Action or how the public would react, he defended his 150-second
contribution. He said: "It was a long-standing policy of the Institute to
have a cautious approach to GM- related matters and they felt, including
Professor James, that the route we had to take should be a very, very
gradual and well- researched route." The doctor also told how he had been
effectively gagged by a letter sent to him by Mr James after he appeared
on the World in Action programme. Dr Pusztai said: "He said what I could
do and what I could not do. Most of it was what I could not do. "It was a
bit of a shock because it is not a situation I ever expected to be in."
Dr Pusztai also criticised the committee set up to assess the evidence for
and against GM food, saying there were too few practising scientists on
it. Supermarket chain Asda said yesterday that as part of a policy to
eliminate GM ingredients from its products, it had signed a deal for GM-
The Gazette (Montreal) March 09, 1999, B2
HEADLINE: Little confidence in biotech
BODY: Perhaps Douglas Powell of the University of Guelph's plant
agriculture department (Letters, March 1) is too trusting. He writes,
''When a potential risk is identified, an appropriate management scheme
can be developed, one that maximizes the benefits of a particular
technology while minimizing the risks.'' Gulp: the tone is pure biotech
PR, not something to inspire confidence, unfortunately. He must be aware
that the efforts of 170 countries at a conference in Cartagena, Colombia,
to hammer out a policy to ensure safe trade in genetically modified
organisms have just been thwarted by the United States (read biotech
companies). If genetically engineered foods are so innocuous, as Professor
Powell would have us believe, why are the biotech companies so up-tight
about telling us about them? Their ''out of sight, out of mind'' attitude
doesn't inspire public confidence. Neither do Professor Powell's ''relax,
don't worry'' statements: ''The agricultural products of biotech
technology are increasingly grown by North America because they are safe,
and in many cases yield a good return on investment for farmers.''
Sure. Such platitudes are little more than biotech-company fluff, or his
own wishful thinking. Why not give consumers the information we require?
Unfortunately, Monsanto, Dow and other companies are adamant that we stay
in the dark, that the results of their tinkering remain unlabeled. These
powerful companies sabotaged a treaty that 170 countries were willing to
sign. Apparently, safety and the information to make informed decisions
must take a back seat to biotrade and short-term profits. Guelph's plant
agriculture department should be on the side of the consumer to provide us
with needed information, rather than in bed with the biotech giants.
Patrick Vallely Montreal
The Irish Times March 9, 1999, Pg. 10
HEADLINE: Scientist tells MPs he backs calls for GM safety screen
BODY: The head of the research institute which terminated the contract of
a scientist who raised concerns over genetically modified food, last night
backed his calls for a new, tougher, safety regime for the products. Prof
Philip James, head of the Rowett Research Institute, told a committee of
MPs "more effective and accurate screening methods" were needed to monitor
"the unexpected consequences" of genetic modification. Prof James'
criticisms of the current system for testing so- called Frankenstein foods
echo calls made by Dr Arpad Pusztai, whose contract with the institute was
terminated last summer after he appeared on an ITV World in Action
programme which raised concerns about GM food.
In written evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee, Prof
James attacked US food safety standards, saying "more stringent testing
systems are needed than those which appear to be acceptable in the US". He
also criticised the World Trade Organisation - which would rule on any
British or European attempt to restrict imports of American GM foods - as
treating public health as of "little import".
Dr Pusztai told the MPs there was a "compelling case" for an "over-arching
body to advise on and oversee genetically modified food". He said
government advisory committees on new scientific developments were likely
to be "severely tested" in verifying GM safety as more and more foods were
brought to market. They were also very limited in commissioning their own
research, meaning their judgements were "mainly based on information
received from the companies" developing the foods.
The number of genetically modified animals produced and bred in the UK for
scientific experiments totalled more than 350,000 in the latest figures
available, the British government disclosed last night. The junior Home
Office minister, Lord Williams, said in a House of Lords written reply
355,396 GM animals were reared in the UK in 1997, including 5,000
imported, and were used for "scientific procedures".
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign
for Mandatory labelling and long-term
testing of genetically engineered food
500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N2
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