GENTECH archive


Fw: GE - Dr Putzai returns - 'These findings will cause an explosion']

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Matthews (by way of genetics <>)
To: <>
Date: Monday, 1 February 1999 19:10
Subject: GE - Dr Putzai returns - 'These findings will cause an explosion']

UK Mail On Sunday 31 Jan 1999

Scientist in Frankenstein food alert is proved right

Accusations of cover-up after top pathologist backs the
professor whose tests brought him humiliation

By Christopher Leake and Lorraine Fraser

The proffessor who was publically humiliated over claims
that genetically modified Frankenstein food may be harmful
has been proved right after all.
World expert Dr Arpad Pusztai was stripped of his post and
described as muddled by his superiors after he referred to
experiments in which rats had been damaged when fed
genetically-altered potatoes.
But today The Mail on Sunday can reveal that rats did suffer
shocking internal damage.
And we can disclose that a leading pathologist who has
re-examined their remains has confirmed Dr Pusztais
The scientific bombshell is sure to rekindle controversy
over the safety of genetically altered food.
The revelations will also place a question mark over the
future of Dr. Putzais former
boss, Professor Philip James, who ousted him from the
research programme and is now being tipped as head of the
Governments new Food Standards Agency; due to be formed in
April next year
Dr Pusztai, 68, lost his job at the Government-funded Rowett
Research Institute in Aberdeen after he told TVs World In
Action of his studies.
The interview last August sparked a fierce debate on the
potential dangers of genetically
engineered food.
Yet Dr Pusztai was discredited for getting his facts badly
confused by apparently referring to the wrong experiment.
Professor James issued statements to the Press saying Dr
Pusztai would have to retire because he had got it wrong
by suggesting the rats in question had been fed potatoes
modified with genes from a bean  when, in fact, these
particular experiments had never been carried out.
The apparent mix-up - made amid the glare of TV publicity -
cost Dr Pusztai his reputation.
But we can reveal that Dr Pusztai had conducted other
crucial experiments using potatoes altered by another gene -
and these tests demonstrated a worst case scenario.
The tests were made on rats that were fed potato altered to
carry a gene from snowdrops. This enabled the vegetable to
make a chemical known as GNA lectin, which would protect it
from insect and worm damage. The effect was devastating.
Dr Pusztais results - contained in a report to Professor
James and the Scottish Office - detail liver damage, even in
rats fed cooked genetically modified potatoes for ten days.
His findings-seen by The Mail on Sunday - reveal that in
most animals, highly significant
changes occurred in the weights of some or most of the
rats vital organs and that immune system organs, like the
spleen and thymus, were frequently affected.
Dr. Putzai's revelations have been backed by an independent
analysis by
consultant pathologist Dr Stanley Ewen, of Aberdeen
University, who examined the preserved rats organs.
Neither he nor Dr Pusztai will discuss their findings, which
are expected to be published
But a leading expert said: Dr. Ewens results will cause an
explosion. These were measurable changes in the rats fed
modified potato - and we feel theres been a cover-up. There
should be more openness in the whole business about public
money and how it being used in this field.
The doctors conclusions are a setback for the multibillion
pound biotechnology industry, which is seeking licenses
worldwide to grow high volume crops that resist herbicides.
At the start of the experiment, it was thought that snowdrop
lectin was unlikely to produce harmful effects, so it would
have been considered for commercial development.
But now the revelations have thrown GM foods research into
After Dr Pusztais TV outburst Professor James - the man
behind Government proposals for a Food Standards Agency -
ordered an audit of Dr Pusztai a work by four scientists.
It concluded that existing data did not support the idea
that the modified potatoes had any effect on growth organ
development or immune function in the rats.
But the question being asked last night was why the report
from the four scientists auditing the work do not analyse
data on the rats internal organs which might have
established if they had been damaged.
GM foods are already on supermarket shelves. An estimated 60
percent of processed foods on sale in the UK contain
genetically modified soya grown in the US.
Big business is pushing for licences to produce the crops in
the UK, but at present only Government-approved test sites
growing altered produce are permitted. And none of the crops
is allowed to be sold to the public. A fortnight ago, the
House of Lords Select Committee on European Communities - to
which Professor James gave evidence - acknowledged there
were potential risks to the environment but said GM crops
had much to offer.
The committee said the regulatory regime in place to ensure
the safety of products sold in the shops was thorough and
In oral eveidence to the same committee last October,
Professor James alluded to new data from Dr Pusztai - but
he did not reveal its contents. Professor James said last
night: I am desperate that dear old Arpad Pusztai maintains
his scientific credibility. I was interested in the GNA
(snowdrop) data and told everybody - with the agreement of
Pusztai, Scottish Office, Ministries, you name it - that
this was important stuff and under no circumstances must we
just have snippets coming out.
He confirmed that the four scientists he had asked to audit
Dr Pusztais claims did not have the full details of all the
tests available to them.
They considered the data available only up to the date of
the World In Action programme.
Professor James said he hadnt disclosed Dr Pusztais new
data to the Lords committee in October because I am
desperate to protect him. There is a standard policy in the
scientific world that when there is something particularly
of public interest and you have got something that could be
of enormous significance, you must make sure your data is
not only sound and robust but withstands review by your
scientific peers.
He said that if Dr Pusztais analysis was correct and the
full feeding studies were repeated and produced the same
findings, it would be very important.
Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrats food spokesman, said the
new evidence raised a query over Professor Jamess role as
possible boss of the food agency. The EU is more likely to
be an effective watchdog on this issue than anybody in
Britain, because successive governments have rolled over and
had their tummies tickled by some of the huge multi-national
companies involved in the research. Ive seen no evidence
yet that there is anybody in Whitehall to question in an
effective way this sort of development.
Every time we get information about genetically modified
organisms we see more evidence for a complete moratorium on
further development of the programme until a lot more
research has been done by a totally independent
A Greenpeace spokesman said As more research is done well
keep finding big problems. We dont need to produce food
this way ... so why are we taking these risks?