GE - Arpad Puzstai's research to be vindicated in the Lancet
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- Date: Mon, 04 Oct 1999 11:27:46 +0100
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GM CRITIC TO BE 'VINDICATED' Sky News Monday October 4th
A scientist who published damning research results about GM foods and was
subsequently ‘retired’ from his position, will finally be tried by his peers.
Later this week - after a review by three sets of experts - the Lancet journal
will publish work by Dr Arpad Pusztai showing alarming changes in the guts of
rats fed with GM potatoes.
Dr Pusztai’s (pictured right) reputation came under attack in August 1998 when
he said he would not eat GM food after seeing the effects of GM-fed laboratory
For 100 days, Pusztai fed the rats with GM potatoes, grown to the same
specification as biotechnology companies.
His research results showed the rats developed a thickening of the stomach
lining which later became inflamed.
He claimed GM food stunted the growth of rats, depleted their immune system
damaged their internal organs.
Within days of his comments, Pusztai was suspended and eventually retired from
his position at the Rowett Institute of Aberdeen, after his bosses said the
evidence was misleading.
The research institute was swift to distance itself from Pusztai’s research,
releasing a statement that saidd: "The institute regrets the release of
misleading information about issues of such importance to the public and the
'Misleading' the public
The Government's chief scientific advisor Sir Robert May also accused him of
violating "every canon of scientific rectitude".
Finally, in May this year, his work was criticised in a report by a committee
of scientist at the Royal Society which said that "no conclusions should be
drawn" from Dr Pusztai's work, which was "flawed in many aspects of design,
execution and analysis".
Responding to the news that Pusztai’s work was to be published, a government
spokesman said: "Research scientists should subject their findings to peer
review before release into the public domain."
Expert on GM danger vindicated - Independent on Sunday By Geoffrey Lean
The scientist who suggested that genetically modified foods could damage
- and was comprehensively rubbished by Government ministers and the scientic
establishment as a result - is to have his reputation dramatically
Britain's top medical journal, The Lancet is shortly to publish Arpad
research showing changes in the guts of rats fed with GM potatoes. This will
reignite fears that eating GM foods may endanger human health.
The Government has sought to discredit Dr Puzstai's work on the grounds
has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Other scientists
have made similar claims and attacked it as "flawed" and unpublishable.
Publication of the article will encourage other scientists to try to repeat
experiments, kickstarting further scientific investigation into whether GM
foods pose a threat to health or not.
Galley proofs of the article have already been sent to Dr Puzstai, and his
co-author Dr Stanley Ewen, SeniorLecturer in Pathology at Aberdeen University.
Late last week David McNamee, the journal's Executive Editor, said that it
be published "soon."
The research is important because few papers have so far been published on the
health effects of GM foods, despite the rapidity with which they spread onto
supermarket shelves. Indeed Dr Puzstai - who was travelling in europe last
and unable to comment on the news - began his experiments becuise he could
only one previous peer-reviewed study, led by a scientist from Monsanto,
food giant, which had found no ill-effects.
He started three years research - funded by the Scottish Office to the tune of
£1.6 million - at Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute as a self-confessed
"very enthusiastic supporter" of GM technology, who fully expected his
experiments to give it "a clean bill of health."
The 68 year-old scientist, who has published 270 sceintific papers and is
acknowledged as the leading authority in his field, fed rats on three strains
of genetically engineered potatoes and one ordinary one. In his first full
interview, after being gagged by his institute, he told the Independent on
Sunday last March; " I was absolutely confident I wouldn't find anything. But
the longer I spent on the experiments, the more uneasy I became."
His findings sparked public concern, and ignited a furious row about GM foods,
after he briefly mentioned them, with the Institute's permission, on a
television programme last year. They contradicted repaeted assurances from the
Prime Minister down, that GM food is safe, and undermined the assumption
the regulation of genetically altered crops that there is no substantial
difference between them and their conventional equivalents.
Despite his eminence, Dr Puztai - who came to Britain after the suppression of
the 1956 Hungarian rising beacuse of the country's "tolerance" - underwent one
of the most extraodinary treatments ever meeted out to a reputable scientist.
He was suspended from his work on the experiments, his computers were sealed,
his data confiscated and he found himself "sent to Coventry" by his
He was forced into retirement and forbidden to talk about his work.
He came under comprehensive attack from ministers and the scientific
establishment. Sir Robert May, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser,
accused him of violating "every canon of scientific rectitude". The Royal
Society claimed that his work was "flawed in many aspects of design, execution
and analysis" and said that "no conclusions could be drawn from it." And
Professor Tom Sanders, of Kings College, London. said that none of the major
scientific journals would publish the research.
Ministers enthusiastically joined in. Cabinet enforcer Dr Jack Cunningham, who
is in charge of the Government's GM strategy, said Dr Pusztai's work had been
"comprehensively discredited" , and top Downing Street advisers consistently
stressed it should be disregarded because it had not been published in a
Dr Pusztai retorted that he was eager to publish, and pointed out that the
scientific criticism was based on incomplete information that he had put on
internet at the Institute's request, while being denied full access to his
data, which was only released to him this spring.