3-Food: Details of Dr. Pusztai's research published
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- Date: Tue, 16 Feb 99 13:16:54 -0000
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Photos compound GM food concerns
The Guardian Sat FEB 13th 99
Food Scandal: Evidence of changes in the organs of rats fed GM potatoes
suggests minister's safety assurances may be immature
BY:MICHAEL SEAN GILLARD,LAURIE FLYN AND ANDY ROWELL.
"IF THIS IS PROVED TO BE THE CASE IT WOULD MOST LIKELY BE THE COMMERCIAL
DEATH FOR CURRENT GM FOODS."
The cabinet minister yesterday assured the British people that genetically
modified was safe, in respose to revalations in the Guardian of suppressed
Scottish Office research which found that the rats fed GM potatoes suffered
damage to their vital organs and waekened immune systems.
Today the Guardian publishes for the first time the evidence that his
assurances are premature.
These photographs show the stomachs of two rats each taken at the same time
after a ten day feedinf trial last year.
The picture on the left shows the stomach wall of a rat fed ordinary
potatoes; that on the right shows the large stomach lining of one fed GM
The experiment was part of the publicly funded research carried out by the
Aberdeen based Rowett Research Institute by Stanly Ewen, a senior
pathologist at the Aberdeen University Medical School.
Dr Ewen would only talk to the Guardian in general terms about his
experiment, He said: "We didn't expect the result, we expected it would
show no difference. But there are differences which cause me concern. We
need to know what happens in the mammalian gut with GM food.
"There should be tests".
However the Guardian revealed yesterday that all the the pioneering
research conducted by Dr Ewen under the co-ordination of Arpad Pusztai ,
was shut down in disputed circumstances last year.
Philip James,m the director of the Rowett, who Tony Blair asked to set up
the Food Standards Agency, told reporters yesterday that htere had been no
political pressure to dismiss Dr Pusztai.
This was reaffirnmed by Dr Cunningham.
Dr Ewen recieved the young rats bodies in February. They had been fed GM
potatoes then killed and dissected. Young rats are used because of their
responsiveness which makes it easier to measure adverse effects on growing
mammals. But because therewas no expectations of controversial results, the
measurements were not carried out until October.
Dr Ewen examined the rats by measuring their internal organs. In particular
he looked at the stomach and it's crypt, the bottom part of the large
intestine. He found that after ten days the rat fed GM potatoes had a
particularly thickened stomach lining or gastric mucosa. He also found
elongation of the crypt.
Dr Ewen is prevented from discussing the results and was not involved in
any way in passing the Guardian the photographs. He said last night, "We
think we are showing up something that nobody's spotted.
This is the first time that GM food has been used in feed trials, something
the GM industry and it's contracted research institutions do not seem to be
Dr Ewen repeated these measurements three times because he wanted to ensure
that there was no technical bias in his original findings, which he
describes as"Very, very highly significant".
On the second occasion he also found the stomach lining had substantially
enlarged in the rat fed GNM potatoes. There was a very slight difference in
the amount but the significance was still very high.
On the third occasion the same results were reached, leading Dr Ewen to
conclude that "these very extra-ordinary findings are very highly
Dr Ewen yesterday told a very packed press conference at the House of
Commons that the protein - GNA snowdrop lectin- inserted into the GM
potatoe did not cause the elongation of the crypt, but could not go
further. Elongation of the stomach's crypt is extremely problematic as it's
provides more surface area upon which cancers can grow.
Vyvyan Howard, a foetal and infant toxico-pathologist and head of research
at Liverpool University, told the press conference that cancer was one of
the main problems associated with Dr Pusztai's findings. But the Guardian
understands that Dr Ewen and others who have assessed his research believe
the likely cause of the thickening of the stomach wall and the crypt
elongation is one of the "key' genes that form part of the genetically
engineered process itself - the so called cauliflower mosaic virus
IF THIS IS PROVED TO BE THE CASE IT WOULD MOST LIKELY BE THE COMMERCIAL DEATH
FOR CURRENT GM FOODS.
The cauliflower mosaic virus is used in most of the GM foods available in
the UK, such as soya - which is found in 60% of processed food stuffs.
The Guardian understands that such a vital piece of research, whci could
resolve whether current Gm foods are harmful, would only cost about £5.000
and take a maximum of three months. But because Dr Pusztai's research was
closed down, this research was not being done.
All that Dr Ewen would need to do in additional research would be a DNA
probe, which would identify the cauliflower mosaic promoter was present and
therefore responsible. He does not have the piece of equipment at the
Aberdeen University medical school, but it could be rented or loaned from
many of the research institutes in the UK.
Dr Ewen has not applied for a government grant to carry out this essential
research, because of the controversy surrounding Dr Pusztai. His caution
seems to be born by the reaction of the government to the Guardian's story
Ian Gibson MP, Labour chairman of the parliamentary office of science and
technology, and a member of the commons committee on science and technology
said"If this was generated by a cancer drug then people wopuld certainly
need to be worried about the effects on their health and digestive organs.
It would be interesting to know if the basic cause of these observations is
the increased divisions of cells as happens in cancer.
Dr Gibson, a scientist before he became MP for Norwhich North and former
Dean of Biological sciences at the University of East Anglia, where he
headed a cancer research team, also called for a moratorium, in contrast to
the official governmewnt line.
"The Government has really got to take this seriously because these
scientists in the Rowett Institute have clearly got evidence which other
distinquished scientists are supporting.
"I was astonished that Dr Pusztai was moved from his position after there
was acknowledegment of his results.
"I feel that there has been some interference with the openess of the
scientific process from either industrial or political avenues . TYhe
research team should be immediatly restored and invuited to apply for a
continuation of their research.
-| Hartmut Meyer
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
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