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3-Food: Arpad Pusztai published review on GE food safety studies

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TITLE:  Scientist who pressed GM panic button raises new food health fears
SOURCE: The Sunday Times, UK, by Jonathan Leake
DATE:   May 4, 2003

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Scientist who pressed GM panic button raises new food health fears

A SCIENTIST who shocked the world with research claiming that genetically
modified (GM) crops might damage human health is to release new findings
supporting his warnings, writes Jonathan Leake.

Arpad Pusztai, who lost his job at the prestigious Rowett Research
Institute in Aberdeen after outlining his findings in a television
programme in 1998, will publish the new research this week.

It warns that the work carried out by biotechnology companies into the
human health hazard from GM food is inadequate and unsafe. It also points
to technical defects in the way GM plants are created.

Pusztai's study is contained in a book called Food Safety, a compilation
of scientific papers which describes the contaminants and toxins
contained in modern foods. In his section, Pusztai brings together all
the scientific studies carried out into the safety of GM foods and
subjects them to rigorous statistical and scientific scrutiny.

This weekend he said: "We found that there are only a few such studies
and they show many problems. In particular, they illustrate that GM foods
have never been publicly tested for their safety and wholesomeness. There
is increasing research to show they may actually be very unsafe."

The research comes at a crucial time. This autumn the Royal Society is
expected to publish the results of the government-sponsored field trials
of GM crops. The government is also about to sponsor a nationwide debate
on the issue.

However, Britain's Food Standards Agency has completed separate research
appearing to confirm some of Pusztai's warnings. It showed that
genetically modified DNA in plants can be taken up by gut bacteria in
humans and animals. This finding was contrary to previous assurances from
biotechnology firms, which had said DNA would be broken down in the gut
shortly after consumption.

It raises the possibility that alien genes inserted into crop plants and
conferring properties such as antibiotic resistance could be passed on to
bacteria, making them resistant, too.

Pusztai had been a plant researcher at the Rowett Institute until he
appeared in a World in Action documentary on GM foods to describe how
rats fed on GM potatoes had suffered gut lesions, retarded growth and
other symptoms.

He spoke fewer than a dozen sentences but his words reverberated around
the world, infuriating GM firms and the scientific establishment. They
claimed his research had been poorly done and that he should not have
revealed the results before having it reviewed by peers. However, it was
later approved and published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Pusztai's first warnings have been echoed by the Royal Society. Its
experts last year concluded that GM crops could offer substantial
benefits but said too little was known about their potential health impact.