GENTECH archive


Fw: GE - Memorandum from 20 scientists .....SORRY

Sorry for all the repetition in the article just posted. I hadn't read it to
the end before I forwarded it
Here is a neater version.

Clive Elwell

-----Original Message-----
From: genetics <>
To: <>
Date: Thursday, 18 February 1999 10:09
Subject: GE - Memorandum from 20 scientists PLUS 5 misleading statements
by Jack Cunningham


Six months ago Dr. Pusztai voiced his concern in a TV programme that present
testing procedures to establish the safety of foodstuffs containing
modified (GM) material may not be adequate. Two days later he was
suspended by
the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, for being responsible for the
of misleading information, gagged and threatened by legal action if he spoke
out in his own defence. All his scientific data were confiscated and, to
establish whether or not he had committed fraud, an Audit Committee was set
up. Its remit was to investigate whether, as Dr. Pusztai claimed, the growth
and immune responsiveness of rats fed diets containing GM potatoes was
depressed. Regrettably, although a Report was written on the conclusion made
by the Audit Committee, this has only been discussed by selected people in
with the Rowett's original intention that "these new findings will not be
released by the Institute but will be scrutinized by collaborating groups of
scientists and official expert committees". Unfortunately, neither the
of the GM research nor of the Audit have been fully revealed. Instead,
months later the Rowett published a summary of the conclusions of the Audit
Report which stated unequivocally that Dr. Pusztai's conclusions were not
justified by his experimental data.

Those of us who have known Dr. Pusztai's work or have collaborated with him,
were shocked by the harshness of his treatment by the Rowett and even more
the impenetrable secrecy surrounding these events. It is an unacceptable
of practice by the Rowett and its Director, Professor James, to set
up as arbiters or judges of the validity of data which could have such a
profound importance not only for scientists, but also for the public and its
health. Fortunately, to comply with the Audit rules, the Rowett had to
Dr. Pusztai's data and give him the right to comment on the Audit Report.
Although the results included in this report appeared to be arbitrarily
selected and biased towards brushing aside the conclusions of his
findings, the data contained within the Audit Report itself nevertheless
very clearly that the transgenic GNA-potato had significant effects on
function and this alone is sufficient to vindicate entirely Dr. Pusztai's
statements. Dr. Pusztai decided to make his response to the Director of the
Rowett and SOAEFDS (Scottish Office, who funded the project) in the form of
Alternative Report. However, the existence of his Report has never been
acknowledged. In the interest of transparency and to follow the tradition of
scientific exchange of views and data between scientists, and to peer-review
his findings before publication, a number of independent scientists
Dr. Pusztai with the view to study his results in detail and have given us
their written reviews.

The independent scientists who have reviewed Dr. Pusztai's data and case,
who agreed with the content of this Memorandum, are:
Prof. K. Baintner, Department of Physiology, Pannon Agricultural University,
Kaposvar, Hungary
Prof. J. Cummins, Emeritus Prof. Genetics, Ontario, Canada
Dr. S.W.B. Ewen, Department of Pathology, Aberdeen Royal Hospitals,
Scotland, UK
Prof. R. Finn, Department of Medicine, The University of Liverpool, United
Dr. M.F. Fuller, Stony Brook, New York, USA
Prof. B.C. Goodwin, Schumacher College, Dartington, Devon, United Kingdom
Dr. J. Hoppichler, Federal Institute for Less-Favoured and Mountainous
Vienna, Austria
Dr. C.V. Howard, Fetal and Infant Toxico-Pathology, The University of
Liverpool, United Kingdom
Dr. J. Koninkx, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine,
University of Utrecht, The Netherlands
Prof. A. Krogdahl, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway
Dr. K. Lough, Bankhead, Aberdeen, Scotland (formerly of the Rowett Research
Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK)
Prof. F.V. Nekrep, Biotechnical Faculty, Zootechnical Department,
University of
Ljubljana, Slovenija
Prof. S. Pierzynowski, Department of Animal Physiology, University of Lund,
Prof. S. Pongor, Protein Structure and Function Group, International
Centre for
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Trieste, Italy
Prof. I. Pryme, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology,
University of
Bergen, Norway
Prof. J. Rhodes, Gastroenterology Research Group, The University of
United Kingdom
Dr. L. Rubio, Department of Animal Nutrition, Estacion Experimental del
Granada, Spain
Prof. M. Sajgo, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Godollo
University of
Agriculture, Hungary
Prof. U. Schumacher, Department of Neuroanatomy, University of Hamburg,
Dr. B. Tappeser, Institute for Applied Ecology, Freiburg, Germany

The reviews written by these scientists allowed us to compare the
of both the Audit and the Alternative Reports and to establish the validity
Dr. Pusztai's claims. No data will be given here but, as in any referee's
report, we give our summary assessment and conclude that the data would be
acceptable for scientific papers. In light of the personal harm done to Dr.
Pusztai we conclude also that it is imperative to make available the
reviews as
well as our conclusion to the public, either as publications in scientific
journals or otherwise. There is no doubt in our minds that the reviews will
remove the stigma of alleged fraud and will restore Dr. Pusztai's scientific

We are of the opinion that although some of the results are preliminary,
are sufficient to exonerate Dr. Pusztai by showing that the consumption of
GNA-GM-potatoes by rats led to significant differences in organ weight and
depression of lymphocyte responsiveness compared to controls. There was also
strong evidence that GNA-GM tubers were not substantially equivalent to
potatoes and indeed the two lines of GNA-GM-potatoes in the study were also
different. This makes a very strong case for the necessity of performing
further work to elucidate the toxico-pathological importance of these
findings. Unfortunately, as publication of scientific papers is a long-drawn
out process, and as there is an urgent need to bring these data into the
arena right now such that the safety and hazards presented by GM crops
could be
properly debated and assessed, we decided to publish this Memorandum.

Signed by:
Prof. E. Van Driessche
Laboratory of Protein Chemistry, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels,
Prof. T.C. Bxg-Hansen
The Protein Laboratory, University of Copenhagen, Denmark


 5 misleading  statements by Jack  Cunningham

Number 1:

We are certainly a lot closer to the consumer organisations and the
environmental organisations [than to the GM food Industry]


According to parliamentary questions answered last year, between the 16th of
June 1997 and the 24th of July 1998 there were 56 official meetings between
biotech industry and the government compared to 6 meetings with
and consumer groups.

Number 2:

None of our advice is saying that there is a case for a moratorium on these

May I say that nothing was more misleading or irresponsible than the
leader of
the opposition saying last week in the House that English Nature had called
a moratorium on these matters. It certainly has not done so.


According to their press release, English Nature, the statutory advisor to
government on nature conservation in England, has consistently called for a
moratorium on the commercial widespread release of two types of genetically
modified crops herbicide resistant and insect resistant. These are the only
types of genetically engineered crops that may be grown in the near future.

Number 3:

No-one is advising ministers here that there is a risk to public health.
No-one is saying that products should be withdrawn from the market. There
out and out opponents of the processes whose position is well known and well
understood. Theyve produced no scientific evidence, no force of argument,
intellectual case for what they are saying.

Today it was reported that the government had failed to release a report by
biotechnology unit at the DETR which raised major concerns about the impact
GM crops on wildlife. Last Friday 20 scientists (see list below), said that
there was an urgent need to bring the research of Dr.Pusztai (the scientist
sacked for expressing concerns about the lack of adequate safety testing)
the public arena so that the safety and hazards presented by GM crops could
properly assessed. The scientific community is clearly divided on the health
and environmental safety of the genetic engineering of food crops.
Yesterday 29
organisations, ranging from Action Aid to the TownsWomens Guild called upon
the government for a five year moratorium on all releases of GM crops,
of GM food and all patents on living organisms..

Number 4:

It is simply not sensible to conclude that if a laboratory experiment with
known toxin added caused damage to rats, that all other GM potatoes are
therefore unsafe.


He has clearly not looked at the research, nor it seems have many of the
so-called experts who have repeated the same argument. The potatoes
were genetically engineered (GE) with a snowdrop lectin. It is not true that
all lectins are toxic Dr. Pusztai, a leading authority on lectins, who has
published some 270 scientific papers, had been working with the snowdrop
for seven years and was using it precisely because it was not thought to be
toxic to mammals. Lectins are a family of molecules that recognise and bind
sugars. The human body, for example, contains many different lectins. The
reason that Dr. Pusztais research was so significant is because a control
group of potatoes which had the snowdrop lectin added to them did not
affect the
rats in the same way as the potatoes genetically engineered with the
lectin even though the lectin was present in both. This points to the
of genetic engineering itself the same process used for the genetically
engineered foods currently approved for human consumption in the UK, none of
which has been tested to see if it has the same effects on the immune
system or
internal organs.

Number 5:

The scientists who spoke out have not as yet provided any evidence to our
advisory groups, to our scientists. They have been asked for it now for some
considerable time. As soon as they do make their findings available to us of
course we shall examine them quickly and comprehensively.


Twenty-one scientists from twelve countries contacted Dr.Pusztai and asked
look in detail at the research data, the official Audit Report carried out
the Rowett, and the Alternative Report written by Pusztai himself as the
co-ordinator of the project. These scientists include highly respected
pathologists, geneticists, immunologists, physiologists, and molecular
biologists from a dozen countries. On Friday they released statements
vindicating Pusztais original conclusions and condemning the Rowett for
handling of the issue and for omitting essential data from the Audit Report.
However the government has had all the information which was reviewed by the
international group of scientists, for three months. Dr. Pusztai sent all
information to the Scottish Office, the relevant government authority, by
recorded delivery on the 22nd of October last year. They subsequently
acknowledged receipt of these documents. The only one of the scientists to
been contacted by the ACNFP (governments advisory committee) is
Dr. Stanley Ewen, who has been conducting related, but separate, research of
his own. It is not yet available because it is about to be published and
reviewed. Dr.Pusztai was criticised for commenting on his research before it
had undergone this kind of peer review, so it seems wise for Dr. Ewen to
validate his own findings by first following the scientific protocol. Both
Pusztai and Dr. Ewen are, however, asking to be called to give evidence to a
parliamentary committee.

For further information please contact Luke Anderson on 07957 188621