GENTECH archive


Damage From GE Food

Recent News from the UK:

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 professor who was publicly humiliated over claims
that genetically modified Frankensteinfood may be harmful
has been proved right after all.

World expert Dr. Arpad Pusztai was stripped of his post and
described as muddledby 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. Pusztai's findings.

This 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. Putzai's former boss, Professor Philip James,
who ousted him from the research programme and is now being
tipped as head of the Government's 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 TV's "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 in 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. Pusztai's results - contained in a report to Professor
James and the Scottish Office - detail liver damage, even in
rats fed cooked genetically modified potatoes for only 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 ratsvital 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 ratsinternal organs. Neither he nor Dr. Pusztai
will discuss their findings, which are expected to be published.
But a leading expert said: Dr. Ewen's results will cause an
uproar. These were measurable changes in the rats fed
modified potato - and we feel therehas 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 doctor'sconclusions 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. Pusztai's TV outburst Professor James - the man
behind Government proposals for a Food Standards Agency -
ordered an audit of Dr Pusztai's work by four scientists.
It concluded that existing datadid not support the idea
that the modified potatoes had any effect on growth organ
development or immune functionin 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 ratsinternal organs which might have
established whether 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
are 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 wasthorough and
proper.In oral evidence to the same committee last October,
Professor James alluded to new datafrom 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 Pusztai's 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 hadn't disclosed Dr Pusztai's 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 Pusztai's analysis was correct and the
full feeding studies were repeated and produced the same
findings, it would be very important indeed.

Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrats food spokesman, said the
new evidence raised a query over Professor James's 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. I've 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 that as more research is done we'll
keep finding big problems. We don't need to produce food
this way ... so why are we taking these risks?

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