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GE Food Scientific Scandal Rocks Britain--Many Scientists, Along with the Public,
Are Now Calling for an EU Moratorium on GE "Frankenfoods"

DR. PUSZTAI VINDICATED!
The Guardian (U.K. national newspaper)

2/12/99 UK: INTERNATIONAL SCIENTISTS BACK SHOCK FINDINGS OF SUPPRESSED
RESEARCH
INTO MODIFIED FOOD.

By Michael Sean Gillard, Laurie Flynn and Andy Rowell.

TWENTY international scientists have signed an unprecedented memorandum
supporting the controversial findings of suppressed research which found
that rats fed on genetically modified pototoes suffered a weakened immune
system
and damage to vital organs.
In a report published for the first time today, the scientists from 13
countries also demand the immediate professional rehabilitation of the
British
scientist, Dr Arpad Pusztai, who discovered these preliminary findings last
year and
was forced to retire after speaking out about his concerns.
Dr Pusztai's pioneering research into the effects of GM crops on animal
nutrition and the environment included feeding genetically modified (GM)
potatoes to rats to determine for the first time whether they had any
harmful effects on their guts, bodies, metabolism and immune system.
The unexpected results of the #1.6m Scottish Office-funded research project
showed that after 10 days of feeding trials the development of the kidney,
thymus, spleen and gut were adversely affected. The research also showed
the rats' immune systems were weakened.
The Guardian can also reveal that the rats' brain size decreased. Dr
Pusztai did not publish this at the time because he judged the political
repercussions
would be too severe.
A more recent piece of research on the same rats by senior pathologist, Dr
Stanley Ewen, of Aberdeen University Medical School, is understood to
validate Dr Pusztai's preliminary findings and points towards new potential
health
risks.
Dr Ewen found that rats fed the GM potatoes used in Dr Pusztai's
experiments suffered from an enlarged stomach wall after 10 days of feeding
trials.
The implications for the biotech industry, already suffering from a public
backlash against GM foods, could be severe, says Dr Vyvyan Howard, a foetal
and infant toxico-pathologist at Liverpool University, who also signed the
memorandum.
"What this means for the industry is that they will have to do rigorous
hazard assessment and do it repeatedly and monitor it."
Jonathan Rhodes, Professor of Medicine at Liverpool University, said: "One
key problem that keeps coming back time and again is that regulation of
food is

nothing like as strict as the regulation for drugs. And when you start
tinkering around with the genetic structure of food you have to move towards
thinking
of food products as pharmaceuticals."
The memorandum demands an immediate funding programme to research the
effects further and determine the causes.
If it can be shown that the lectin, a naturally occuring insect resistant
protein inserted into the potato, was responsible, this could implicate GM
crops containing other lectins, namely Bt toxin.
Last year there were approximately 7.7m hectares of these crops, such as
maize, planted worldwide. The maize is found in various forms, such as corn
flour
and tortilla chips, in British supermarkets.
However, some scientists believe that the problem may lie with one of the
key genes that forms part of the genetic engineering process itself. The
so-called cauliflower mosiac promoter is used in most GM foods available in
the
UK,
such as soya, present in an estimated 60% of processed foodstuffs.
It was these far reaching implications for one of the world's most
aggressively expanding industries, that put Dr Pusztai in the eye of the storm
since
last August when he spoke out on ITV's World In Action.
He said he would not eat GM potatoes and found it "very unfair to use our
fellow citizens as guinea pigs."
Some of the scientists who have viewed the evidence believe that the
circumstances surrounding Dr Pusztai's removal and the closing down of his
research team cannot be understood outside of political and commericial
parameters.
The Aberdeen-based Rowett Institute, where the research was done, said at
the time of his removal that they were unhappy with his having made public
the
results of preliminary research which had not been subject to peer review.
He was subsequently exonerated by an internal inquiry.
GUARDIAN 12/02/1999 P1

2/12/99 UK: FLAWS IN THE FOOD CHAIN - WE NEED A MORATORIUM.
THE PRESSURE for a moratorium on genetically modified food - at least until
more rigorous testing has been done - is beginning to look like a tidal wave.
It
has produced an unholy alliance of William Hague, John Redwood,
leftward-leaning lobbies and the European Parliament (which yesterday voted
for
legislation
that could make biotech companies legally responsible for the adverse effects
of
releasing organisms). Yesterday, the Consumers Association urged the
Government to block further GM products pending overhaul of the regulatory
system -
the first call for a ban in its 40 year history.
There is a case for calling a halt if only to allow time for the fog to
lift. Let's be clear: genetically modified food may turn out to be one of the
great achievements of the twentieth century that will enrich our lives and
bring
cheaper, pesticide-free produce. Talk of Frankenstein foods is completely
misleading. In the much longer run it may help to feed the poorer parts of
the world by producing crops that grow in conditions of drought or salt
(though

no one yet knows how to do such things). But because of its very nature -
manipulating the life process itself - it involves a huge leap into the
unknown that could have truly fearsome consequences.
It is for this reason that new products must be tested in a far more
rigorous and independent way even than other food products. The
understandable
desire of pioneering corporations to get an early return on the vast sums they
have
invested must not stand in the way of protecting the consumer. Memories of
BSE are still too strong for new risks to be taken with the food chain when
doubts remain.
There are several lessons to be drawn from the disturbing reports we
published today of how suppressed research by Dr Arpad Pusztai linking
genetically
modified potatoes to health risks led an international group of 22
scientists to express their concern to the Guardian. The first is that if the
safety of
GM foods is a real issue - and it is then the research on which it is based
must be
open and beyond contention. The results of studies on rats of the kind Dr
Pusztai has conducted are notoriously difficult to transfer to humans. If they
had been we would have cured cancer ages ago. But that's not the point.
Animal studies are our first line of defence and if research fails that test
there
is no point in pursuing it for humans unless proved otherwise.
Second, we should be doubly on alert when an issue like this is complicated
by the spectre of business, science and government forcing through an
unwelcome and uninvited extension of the run of foods on the public when the
question how dangerous they could be is unanswered. Protagonists of GM foods
would argue
that it is a bit ironic that a public addicted to synthetic or junk foods
should
start worrying about tiny genetic alterations to staple crops that have
been undergoing genetic alterations by random mutation, accident and natural
selection for thousands of years. But, again, that's not the point. We
can't rewrite the past, we can affect the future. And we simply don't know.
The

third lesson is to underline the necessity of labelling every food product
that

currently contains GM constituents in a clear way so people at least know
what they are buying.
Tony Blair may feel that he is a victim of another media bandwagon - on to
which re is a growing consensus of people and experts of all persuasion deeply
concerned about this leap into the unknown. Mr Blair should seize the
initiative and declare a moratorium until further research can satisfy the
burgeoning band of doubters.
GUARDIAN 12/02/1999 P23

2/12/99 UK: RESEARCH INTO FOOD SAFETY - QUOTES.
There was no expectation that the research findings would produce
controversial results that could threaten the scientific foundations of the
biotech
industry The Pusztai camp claim there was industry and political pressure on
the
institute to silence him In his final paragraph Dr Putszai asked for proper
experiment with GM plants and added: 'Do not leave it to chance'.
GUARDIAN 12/02/1999 P6

2/12/99 UK: RESEARCH INTO FOOD SAFETY - CHRONOLOGY.
November 1995: Pusztai/ Rowett research begins December 1996: Dr Pusztai warns
Ministry of Agriculture in writing to "have proper experiments" on GM maize.
"Do not leave it to chance."
March 1997: Tony Blair asks Prof James to draw up FSA blueprint.
January 1998: Dr Pusztai expresses concern on BBC about weakened immune
systems in rats fed GM potatoes.
April 1998: World in Action asks Pusztai/Rowett for interview on GM potato
research.
April 1998: Dr Pusztai tells government inspectors about preliminary
findings.
April 1998: Annual Rowett staff meeting; senior management told of
preliminary
results
May 1998: World in Action informs Monsanto of intended programme. Company
seeks
more information on content of Pusztai interview.
June 1998: Government inspectors' report criticises Rowett Institute but
praises
Dr Pusztai's department.
June 1998: Additional funding to continue Pusztai research denied by
Scottish
Office and by Rowett Institute (CHK).
August 10, 1998: World in Action film broadcast. Dr Pusztai says he would
not
eat GM potatoes. Prof James issues press release praising Dr Pusztai.
August 11, 1998: Demand in Commons for moratorium on GM food sales. Prof
James
issues second press release backing Dr Pusztai.
August 12, 1998: Prof James suspends Dr Pusztai, announces emergency audit
of
his research and regrets release of "misleading information".
August 14, 1998: Monsanto attacks World in Action and Dr Pusztai.
August 21, 1998: Audit report completed by Rowett.
October 21, 1998: Government announces one year moratorium. Government sets
up
cabinet committee on bio-techonology and GM foods.(CHK)
October 1998: Stanley Ewen completes rat stomach analysis. Identifies
further
organ damage in rats.
October 1998: Dr Pusztai reconfirms original findings in reply to audit
report.
October 28, 1998: Audit report released. Clears Dr Pusztai of fraud but
says his
findings are not supported by the data. Prof James tells Lords that Dr
Pusztai
"exonerated".
February 4, 1999: Government food safety committee asks Dr Ewen for
research
details.
February 14, 1999: Bio-safety convention begins in Cartagena, Colombia.
GUARDIAN 12/02/1999 P6

2/12/99 UK: OUSTED SCIENTISTS AND THE DAMNING RESEARCH INTO FOOD SAFETY.
Laurie Flynn, Michael Gillard and Andy Rowell on the tests on rats that
raised
serious questions about the effects of genetically modified food on
internal
organs.
LAST WEEK in parliament William Hague asked Tony Blair why the Government
was
ignoring advice from its environmental advisers to call a three-year
moratorium
on the commercial release of genetically modified (GM) crops until more
research
is done.
The Prime Minister, wary of mounting public concern, especially in middle
England, replied ebulliently: "It is important that we proceed on the basis
of
the scientific evidence. The first stage of meeting public concern is to
debate
the information."
Today the Guardian publishes for the first time worrying details of
publicly
funded scientific research. The authors, two eminent British scientists,
demand
that the Government honours its commitment to transparency on the issue of
biotechnology and initiates an immediate evaluation of the potential health
risks.
They are backed by 20 international scientists, who call on the Government
to
release further funding for follow-up research and the clearing of one of
the
authors who has been maligned.
The story begins in October 1995 when the Scottish Office commissioned a
research project from the Aberdeen-based Rowett Research Institute into the
effect of GM crops on animal nutrition and the environment. This included,
for
the first time, feeding GM potatoes to rats to see if they had any harmful
effects on their guts, bodies, metabolism and health.
A former senior Scottish Office official involved in commissioning the
project
told the Guardian there was "little regard" at the time for research into
the
human nutritional and environmental consequences of GM foods. The #1.6m
research
grant was allocated to redress this imbalance. Dr Arpad Pusztai, a senior
research scientist at the Rowett, beat off 28 other tenders to coordinate
the
project. He has always kept an open mind about GM foods and conditionally
supported their release as long as there were rigorous and independent
trials.
The other members of the project were the Dundee-based Scottish Crop
Research
Institute (SCRI) and Durham University biology department who grew the GM
potato
used in the feeding trials. All three bodies had links with the biotech
industry
through the pursuit of commercial research contracts.
There was no reason to believe that the research project would produce the
controversial findings that could threaten the scientific foundations of
the
biotech industry they sought to embrace.
In December 1996, Dr Pusztai suddenly became aware of the inadequate level
of
existing scientific trials on GM maize when a member of the Government's
Advisory Committee on Novel Food Production (ACNFP) asked him to assess the
validity of a licensing application from one of the industry's leading
companies.
He faxed his two-page assessment to the Ministry of Agriculture warning
that
tests into nutritional performance, toxicology or allergenicity were
insufficient and inadequate.
In his final paragraph he asked for "proper experiment" with the GM plants
and
added: "Do not leave it to chance."
There was no legal requirement for further tests to be carried out and
approval
for licensing was granted.
His own project, now a year old, was also presenting difficulties. Rows had
broken out after preliminary findings emerged from Dr Pusztai's team and
the
SCRI and Durham University's biology department showed growing discomfort
sources told the Guardian about the validity of some of his methodology and
the
implication of the results.
A Scottish Office immunologist was called in. She approved the methodology
used
by Dr Pusztai's team.
The preliminary results of Dr Pusztai's work had begun to show unexpected
and
worrying changes in the size and weight of the rats' bodily organs. The
team
found liver and heart sizes were decreasing worse still, the brain was
getting
smaller. There were also indications of a weakening of the immune system.
With so many unanswered questions, far more public money would be needed,
Dr
Pusztai concluded. But the Guardian understands that the Scottish Office
and the
Rowett Institute declined his funding requests.
For Dr Pusztai, the funding crisis and the prospect of his unexpected
results
not being published led him to reconsider his attitude to the media.
In January last year he appeared, with the Rowett Institute's permission,
on
BBC2's Newsnight and voiced his concerns in measured terms about weakening
of
the immune system in the rats fed GM potatoes.
In April, Granada TV's World in Action approached Dr Pusztai and again with
the
institute's consent he gave an interview which was broadcast in the
documentary
that August.
Dr Pusztai told ITV viewers that he would not eat GM food. He found it
"very,
very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs. We have to find
[them] in
the laboratory," he insisted.
Two days later Dr Pusztai was summarily suspended and forced to retire by
the
Rowett Institute's director, Professor Philip James, who had personally
cleared
the interview with Granada and put his name to official press releases
supporting the programme.
Dr Pusztai was denied access to his research data and an internal
investigation
by the Rowett's senior management was launched after unsourced allegations
of
scientific fraud against Dr Pusztai appeared in a scientific journal.
Six months later, the truth about what happened in those two days is still
shrouded in mystery. The Pusztai camp claim there was industry and
political
pressure on the institute to silence him but a press release at he time
stated
that Dr Pusztai had presented provisional data in public without peer
review.
This week the institute director declined to discuss the matter or to be
interviewed by the Guardian. The deputy director, David Blair, also refused
all
requests for further information.
But the institute did complete an audit report in August last year with the
input of two outside scientists. The report concluded that the research
data did
not link GM potatoes to any health risks.
Dr Pusztai wrote his reply once he was allowed access to his data. He
strongly
re-confirmed his findings.
In another twist, Professor James gave evidence to the House of Lords
Committee
on European regulation of GM in agriculture on the same day last October
that
his audit report was published.
Asked about events at the institute, Professor James told the Lords "there
is no
question of any malpractice [by Dr Pusztai]." He apologised for the
confusion,
saying: "Dr Pusztai has come out of this audit review exonerated."
As for Dr Pusztai's conclusions, they remained unproven, said the Rowett
report.
Dr Pusztai was not called to the committee hearing. But the Guardian
understands
that a Liberal Democrat MP, Archy Kirkwood, provided the Lords with a copy
of
the scientist's alternative report.
By October, Dr Stanley Ewen, a pathologist at Aberdeen University Medical
School, working on Dr Pusztai's team, was finalising his measurements on
stomach
sections of rats used in Dr Pusztai's experiments.
Dr Ewen believed he had established that something in the GM potato had
caused
elongation of a section of the stomach. In addition, after 10 days'
feeding, a
section of the stomach wall had increased dramatically.
The Guardian has seen evidence of this and also learned that Dr Ewen did
not
expect these results. According to a source close to the research, the
differences caused Dr Ewen concern.
As a result of the preliminary findings, Dr Ewen and Dr Pusztai are
strongly in
favour of more research to further test their controversial results and
their
implications for human beings. The scientists are anxious not to repeat the
mistakes of the BSE scandal.
They are asking for further funding to examine these problems in a more
benign
atmosphere away from the secrecy, intrigue and recriminations of the past
six
months.
The treatment of Dr Pusztai and the virtual disbandment of his research
team led
the international group of 20 scientists to go public. Two of the
signatories
have worked for the institute. Both were concerned about the attack on
scientific freedom.
Dr Kenneth Lough, aged 71, who was the principal science officer at the
Rowett
Institute for 31 years until he retired 12 years ago, attacked the
"draconian
position" taken by the institute in suspending Dr Pusztai without the
proper "
free exchange" of data.
The absence of this free exchange of publicly funded data would be useful
to the
GM industry which is unable to convince the British public about the
quality of
their product.
The 20 scientists want to know why the changes in organ size and weight are
taking place whether the problem was the new gene or the method of
transplanting.
Alternatively, was it the "virus promoter" the "light switch" which GM
companies
are using to turn on the genes? Increasingly, the Pusztai team began to
focus on
the promoter, the so-called cauliflower mosaic virus.
Preliminary analysis redoubled their anxieties and with it the possible
implications for the GM industry. This was the same virus that had already
been
used in the modified tomato paste, soya oils and maize that the Government
and
the European Union had approved for use in industrial and convenience foods
and
which were making their way into hundreds of products on supermarket
shelves.
Dr Pusztai's preliminary research also questions the safety testing for the
products the biotech industry is bringing to the supermarket shelves, in
some
cases unlabelled. None of the food that has been approved for consumption
in the
UK has undergone long-term feeding trials.
"One key problem that keeps coming back time and again is that regulation
of
food is nothing like as strict as the regulation for drugs," Professor
Jonathan
Rhodes, of Liverpool University, told the Guardian. "And when you start
tinkering around with the genetic structure of food you have to move
towards
thinking of them as pharmaceuticals."
Vyvyan Howard, also of Liverpool University, added: "We are saying that we
need
a moratorium."
The vast majority of the British support this call, although Tony Blair's
government stands by the biotech industry, recently putting another #13m
into
the DTI's Biotechnology means Business programme. A Mori poll last June
showed
77% of respondents in favour of a moratorium; 61% did not wish to eat GM
food.
A clear sign of the importance attached to the unpublished research was
given
last week in private by the Nick Tomlinson, secretary to the Advisory
Committee
on Novel Foods.
In a letter to Dr Ewen on February 4, he stated: "If there are lessons to
be
learned, it is vital that these are taken on board as soon as possible." He
asked for Dr Ewen's research as "a matter of urgency".
At the weekend, British negotiators will fly to Colombia to negotiate the
Biosafety Protocol in an attempt to set up international regulations
governing
GM organisms.
The Government is being criticised by many countries pushing for rigorous
safety
assessments in the protocol. Tewolde Egziabher, representing the African
nations
argues that "the position of the UK delegation is shaped by corporate
interest,
probably reinforced by transatlantic pressure."
Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, argues: "Our aim is to establish
a
predictable, science-based and transparent regime which establishes
controls
proportionate to the risks."
Will these new findings force Tony Blair to change Britain's negotiating
position to adopt a stance based on the precautionary principle? Mr Blair's
position on GM organisms is now at odds with public opinion.
Labour MP Alan Simpson said: "What on earth would it take to put the
people's
government at such a remove from the people that they have a delegation
flying
out to Colombia on Sunday that could end up signing the country to an
agreement
that prevents interventions to protect human health?
"For a government that has been meticulous in courting middle income,
middle
England, there has to be a bigger explanation why they want to side with an
industry increasingly heading towards zero public tolerance.
"I think as the Government we have an obligation to identify who frustrated
this
research? If Dr Pusztai is right, this could be BSE mark two.
"What is at stake here is the whole scrutiny process affecting human and
environmental health."
GUARDIAN 12/02/1999 P6

2/12/99 UK: TOP RESEARCHERS BACK SUSPENDED LAB WHISTLEBLOWER.
SCIENTISTS: speaking out against 'serious flaws in the conclusions arrived
at'
TWENTY-TWO prominent scientists have signed a public statement in support
of
suspended food scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai, who lost his job last year for
warning the British public of possible risks associated with the way
bio-technology companies were introducing genetically modifed food without
long-term feeding trials.
The scientists from 13 countries state that their independent examination
of all
the published data shows that Dr Pusztai was right to be concerned and
should
never have been attacked or suspended.
Dr Malcolm Fuller, honorary research fellow of the Rowett Institute,
Scotland:
"To my mind the most important data you have that is largely overlooked by
the
audit report relates to organ weights"
Dr Kenneth Lough, FRSE, former principal scientific officer Rowett
Institute
1956-87:
"In my view the evidence presented in the audit report must be considered
as
unsafe and is without justification for use against the scientific
reputation of
Dr Pusztai".
"The institute is at risk in sending out signals to scientists working in
(this)
field of research that any sign of apparent default will be treated with
the
utmost severity. The awareness will of course act as a strong deterrent to
those
who wish to conduct research in this vitally important field."
Professor Ronald Finn, University of Liverpool:
"At the very least they should have concluded t
hat there may be an immunological
effect. The full data should now be discussed".
Professor Jonathan Rhodes, University of Liverpool:
"The conclusions drawn [by the audit report] from the facts are biased to
an
extent that in my opinion would not be deemed acceptable if subjected to
peer
review as for a scientific journal."
Professor Ian Pryme,
Bergen University,
Norway, and honorary research fellow Rowett Institute:
"There are serious flaws in the conclusions which the auditing committee
has
arrived at. There can be little doubt that in light of the available data
further detailed experimentation is certainly warranted in order to provide
more
thorough documentation concerning the possible detrimental effects of these
diets."
Professor Joe Cummins, Emeritus Professor of Genetics, University of
Western
Ontario, Canada:
"A great injustice appears to have been committed by a respected research
institute. That institute continues to look inward to cover up its
mistakes."
Professor B.C. Goodwin, Schumacher College, Devon:
"I regret also that there has been no attempt on the part of the Rowett ...
to
re-establish Dr Pusztai's high scientific credentials with the media after
the
damage done to him by the Director in reporting publically that Dr Pusztai
was
responsible for producing confusion and muddle about the results and
implications of his research, a charge later withdrawn. This is the most
serious
damage that any scientist can suffer and it requires rectification."
Dr Vyvyan Howard, foetal and infant toxico-pathologist, Univeristy of
Liverpool:
"An objective review of the data from these experiments leads to the
conclusion
that the consumption of GNA-GM potatoes [modified with a snowdrop lectin]
in
rats has led to significant differences in organ weight and lymphocyte
responsiveness. Further work should be undertaken to elucidate the meaning
of
these findings.
"A major problem with the [audit] report is that the authors have been
selective
with the data they have included, which makes an objective appraisal of
their
conclusions impossible from solely reading the audit report. I have the
impression it was hastily compiled and systematically biased towards
brushing
aside your experimental finding."
"It is urgent that the full data from these experiments should be brought
into
the public arena and debated. Your findings are of considerable importance
in
the current debate on the safety and hazard assessment of genetically
modified
foods."
Professor S Pierzynowski, Dept. Animal Physiology, Lund University, Sweden:
"I must stress that there is enough strong evidence that the work of the
audit
group was not objective and per se dangerous, not only for Dr Pusztai but
generally for free and objective science."
GUARDIAN 2/12/1999 P7

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