by Jeffrey Smith
August 9, 2010
Anniversary of a Whistleblowing Hero
Twelve years ago, a 150-second TV
broadcast changed our world; everyone everywhere owes a debt of
gratitude to the man whose life it turned upside down - in his
effort to protect ours.
Scientists Under Attack
Science in The Magnetic Field of Money
the potatoes, tomatoes, corn, and other vegetable
products that we buy in the supermarket are
genetically modified. Food inspection authorities
and biologists experimenting with the manipulation
of DNA structures for large food companies claim
that these products
sufficient testing and form no danger to public
the experts featured in 'Scientists under Attack -
Science in the Magnetic Field of Money,'
is a blatant lie.
companies have commercial interests that result in
censored research results and crucial questions that
go unanswered. Microbiologist Àrpàd Pusztai found 36
significant differences between rats that had eaten
genetically modified potatoes and rats that had
eaten "normal" ones.
Among the first
group the liver was less well-developed, but when
Pusztai announced this in a television interview, he
was fired. After publication of negative research
data in Nature magazine, his colleague Ignacio
Chapela was attacked online in a viral marketing
campaign to discredit his results.
The editors of
Nature proceeded to write an editorial admitting
that they should not have published the data,
bringing their prestigious publication's independent
reputation into question.
applies to universities that accept large sums of
money from businesses performing food research.
still be trusted?
On August 10, 1998, eminent scientist
Arpad Pusztai (pronounced Poos-tie) dared to speak the
He had been an enthusiastic supporter of genetic engineering,
working on cutting edge safety research with
(GM) foods. But to his surprise, his experiments showed that GM
foods were inherently dangerous. When he relayed his concerns during
a short television interview in the UK, things got ugly. With
support from the highest levels of government, biotech defenders
quickly mobilized a coordinated attack campaign trying to distort
and cover up the evidence.
It worked for a while, but when an order of Parliament lifted Dr.
Pusztai's gag order, the revelations touched off a media firestorm
that ultimately kicked GM foods out of European supermarkets, and
derailed the industry's timetable to quickly replace virtually all
food with genetically engineered alternatives.
I recount the dramatic story of Dr. Pusztai below.
In Part 2 far below, I respond
point-by-point to the biotech industry's denial and spin over the
Pusztai affair, which is still being hyped in their new attack
By early 1996, genetically modified tomatoes had been sold in US
supermarkets for more than a year, and GM soy, corn, and cottonseed
were about to be widely planted.
But not a single peer-reviewed study on
the safety of GM foods had been published, and there was not even an
agreed-upon protocol for answering the question,
"Is this stuff safe?"
The UK government was about to change
all that, and Hungarian born chemist Dr. Arpad Pusztai was their man
to do it.
He beat out 27 competing scientists for
a £1.6 million grant to develop a safety testing protocol; it was
supposed to eventually be required for all GM food approvals in
A Spud with
Pusztai's team was working with the vegetable equivalent of a James
Bond car - complete with built-in weaponry. A potato was outfitted
with an assassin gene from the snowdrop plant; the gene produced "GNA
lectin," a protein that kills insects.
How did Dr. Pusztai feel about the fact that his prestigious
Institute was preparing to release killer potatoes into supermarkets
worldwide? Fine, actually.
He knew that the GNA
lectin was harmless - not to insects mind you, but to us mammals.
Dr. Pusztai was the world's leading expert on lectin proteins, and
the GNA lectin was the one he knew most about. He had studied it for
nearly seven years.
But when Dr. Pusztai fed the GM potato to rats using his new safety
testing protocol, he got a shock.
Nearly every system in the rats'
bodies was adversely affected - several in just 10 days. Their
brains, livers, and testicles were smaller, while their pancreases
and intestines were enlarged. The liver was partially atrophied.
Organs related to the immune system, including the thymus and the
spleen, showed significant changes.
Their white blood cells responded to an
immune challenge more slowly, indicating immune system damage.
In all cases, the GM potato created
proliferative cell growth in the stomach and small and large
intestines; the lining was significantly thicker than controls.
Although no tumors were detected, such growth can be precancerous.
of Genetic Engineering Implicated
Dr. Pusztai and his team knew that the GNA lectin had not caused the
Other rats had been fed natural potatoes
spiked with the same amount of GNA insecticide that the GM spud
produced - and they did fine. The control group fed natural potatoes
without added lectin were also in good shape. And in a previous
experiment, Dr. Pusztai had fed rats an enormous quantity of the
lectin, about 700 times the amount produced in the GM potato, again
with no effect.
The damage to the rats, it appeared, came rather from the unintended
side effects of the genetic engineering process.
These effects (from gene insertion and
cell cloning) may include massive collateral damage in a plant's
DNA, with hundreds or thousands of mutations. Important natural
genes can be inadvertently turned off, permanently turned on,
deleted, reversed, scrambled, moved, fragmented, or changed in their
Dr. Pusztai wanted to find out precisely what went wrong in his
potatoes, so he asked the government to provide more funds to
conduct follow-up studies.
But Prime Minister Tony Blair, his
ministers, and his entire political party, were all unapologetic
biotech cheerleaders trying desperately to promote them to a
skeptical public. Exposing problems with GMO technology wasn't on
the government's agenda.
Additional funds were not forthcoming.
Control Kicks In
The UK television show "World in Action" asked Dr. Pusztai for an
With permission from his Institute's
director, he spoke generally about his concerns with GMOs based on
the findings. He was careful not to reveal the details of his study,
which was still unpublished.
His 150-second interview was aired on August 10, 1998. The European
Press went wild and Dr. Pusztai was propelled to the status of hero
at the Rowett Institute.
The Institute's director, Professor
Phillip James, took over all the publicity efforts, described
the research as a huge advance in science, and wrote in a press
"a range of carefully controlled
studies underlie the basis of Dr. Pusztai's concerns."
On the afternoon of August 11th,
two phone calls were allegedly placed from the UK prime minister's
office, forwarded through the Institute's receptionist, to Professor
Dr. Pusztai's hero status was revoked.
The next morning, the director suspended Dr. Pusztai after 35 years
of service. He was silenced with threats of a lawsuit and his twenty
member research team disbanded. The government never implemented
their GMO safety testing protocol.
The Institute released numerous statements, some contradicting each
other, others misrepresenting the research, but all designed to
discredit Dr. Pusztai and the implications of his findings.
Seven months (and one heart attack) later, Dr. Pusztai's gag order
was lifted when the Parliament invited him to testify. As the true
details of the study began to emerge, the media responded. About 750
articles on GMOs were pumped out within the month.
Biotech advocates swung into action.
According to a leaked document
obtained by The Independent on Sunday, three government ministers
"an astonishingly detailed strategy
for spinning, and mobilizing support for" GM foods. "One of [the] ministers' main
concerns," said the report, "was to rubbish research by Dr.
The ministers' campaign relied on the
participation of certain scientists, including those in the
Society, who could voice uncompromising support for GMOs.
According to the newspaper, many of
these scientists, while promoted as "independent," had received
compensation directly or indirect from the biotech companies. The
Independent admonished the government's actions as a "a cynical
public relations exercise."
But the spin campaign was too little, too late. By the end of April
1999, just 10 weeks after Dr. Pusztai's gag order was lifted, the
public's distrust of GMOs reached a tipping point. Use of GM
ingredients had become a marketing liability.
Within a single week nearly every major
food company committed to stop using GMOs in Europe.
With his data finally returned to him, Dr. Pusztai and a colleague
submitted their paper to a renowned scientific journal, The Lancet.
Its editor, Richard Horton, told
"there was intense pressure on The
Lancet from all quarters, including the Royal Society, to
The paper passed the peer review and was
set to appear on October 15, 1999.
On October 13, Horton received a call from a senior member of the
According to the Guardian, Horton,
"said the phone call began in a
'very aggressive manner.' He said he was called 'immoral' and
accused of publishing Dr. Pusztai's paper which he 'knew to be
untrue.' Towards the end of the call Dr. Horton said the caller
told him that if he published the Pusztai paper it would 'have
implications for his personal position' as editor."
Although Horton declined to name the
caller, the Guardian,
"identified him as Peter Lachmann,
the former vice-president and biological secretary of the Royal
Society and president of the Academy of Medical Sciences."
Lachmann had been one of the co-signers
on the Royal Society's open letter attacking Pusztai. He also had
extensive financial ties to the biotech industry. In spite of his
threats, The Lancet went forward with publication.
Integrity, and the Public's Right to Know
In the years since this controversy, Dr. Pusztai has given more than
200 lectures around the world on GMOs.
He has been commissioned by the German
government, academic publications, and others to do comprehensive
analyses of GMO safety studies. In 2005, he received the
Whistleblower Award from the Federation of German Scientists (VDW).
And in 2009, he and his wife, Dr.
Susan Bardocz - also an expert on GMO safety and formerly of the
Rowett Institute - were presented with the Stuttgart Peace Prize for
their tireless advocacy for independent risk research, as well as
their courage, scientific integrity, and their undaunted insistence
on the public's right to know the truth.
In 2008, on the tenth anniversary of his TV show, Dr. Pusztai
"On this anniversary I have to admit
that, unfortunately, not much has changed since 1998. In one of
the few sentences I said in my broadcast ten years ago, I asked
for a credible GM testing protocol to be established that would
be acceptable to the majority of scientists and to people in
general. 10 years on we still haven't got one...
"All of us asked for independent, transparent and inclusive
research into the safety of GM plants, and particularly those
used in foods. There is not much sign of this either.
still 'many opinions but very few data;' less than three dozen
peer-reviewed scientific papers have been published describing
the results of work relating to GM safety that could actually be
regarded as being of an academic standard; and the majority of
even these is from industry-supported labs..."
Although pro-GM governments and the
biotech industry continue ignore the mounting evidence of harm,
there is now a movement among many medical doctors, scientists, and
the public, to reject GM food, create a tipping point of consumer
rejection against them in North America, and put GMOs back into the
laboratory where they belong.
I describe Dr. Pusztai's story in more detail in the first chapter
Seeds of Deception.
His findings are also featured among the 65
documented health risks of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in
Genetic Roulette - The Documented Health Risks
of Genetically Engineered Foods.
Biotech Propaganda Cooks Dangers out of GM
Don't worry your little heads over the
gene-spliced foods on your plates. Just trust companies like
Monsanto when they tell you their genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
are perfectly safe.
That's the upshot of a new website created on behalf of the biotech
industry by GMO advocates Bruce Chassy and David Tribe. While they
attempt to discredit the scientific evidence in Genetic Roulette:
The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods,
instead they offer priceless examples of distortion, denial, and
Their site is yet another example of why
we can't trust GMOs, Monsanto, or the so-called scientists who
In a series of rebuttals, I expose this charade and show why healthy
eating starts with no GMOs. (To find out how to avoid GMOs, go to
Non-GMO Shopping Guide.)
In Part 1 above, I recounted the story of
scientist-turned-whistleblower Dr. Arpad Pusztai.
Here, I provide a
point by point refutation of Chassy and Tribe's unwarranted attack
on Dr. Pusztai and their distortion of his findings.
Spin on Spuds
Experts say no scientific
conclusion can be made from the work
Two separate expert panels
reviewed this research and concluded that both the
experimental design and conduct of the experiments were
fatally flawed, and that no scientific conclusion should be
drawn from the work. (Royal Society 1999; Fedoroff and Brown
Dr. Pusztai's research design had already been used in over
50 peer-reviewed published studies conducted at the Rowett
Institute, the most prestigious nutritional institute in the
UK. Furthermore, the design was explicitly approved in
advance by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council (BBSRC) - the UK government's main funding
body for the biological sciences.
The validity of the work was also confirmed by an
independent team of 23 top scientists from around the world
who reviewed the research, as well as The Lancet, that
But Chassy and Tribe instead reference their
partners-in-spin from the Royal Society. As indicated in
Part 1, at the Society there are plenty of scientists with
close ties to the biotech industry who came in quite handy
during the Pusztai affair.
They staged a so-called
peer-review - the first in the Society's 350-year history -
but it was more of a hatchet job. The reviewers didn't even
bother to look at all the research data. Dr. Pusztai told me
he had offered to provide the complete findings and to meet
with them to answer questions, but they refused.
The editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, denounced the
Royal Society's unprecedented condemnation of Dr. Pusztai as,
He called it a
"reckless decision" that abandoned "the principles of due
The team that the Royal Society assembled to do the review
was telling. They had publicly announced that anyone who had
previously commented on the Pusztai situation would be
excluded to avoid bias, but then went ahead and included
four people who had previously co-signed a letter condemning
In addition, several members had
financial ties to biotech companies, and four were
co-producers of the Royal Society's controversial 1998 pro-GMO
report that called for the rapid introduction of GM foods.
The Royal Society also abandoned the normal protocols of
choosing a review team with specific scientific
qualifications to evaluate the study in question. Their
members clearly did not have the relevant experience to
review such a nutritional study.
It came as no surprise that the Royal Society's partial
review denounced the findings. Furthermore, it made sweeping
claims that actually contradicted the study's design and
The coordinator of the review, Rebecca Bowden, later headed
the Royal Society's science policy division, which,
according to The Guardian,
Chassy and Tribe also name
Fedoroff and Brown as the second so-called expert panel.
They weren't a panel at all; they wrote a book, Mendel in
the Kitchen, a devotional ode to biotech.
According to a review in Nature,
"It is the things they
choose not to include, and the inclusion of some
sweeping generalizations, that give the book its
decidedly pro-genetic-engineering slant...
authors state in their introductory chapter, 'Which view
will seem right to you depends on what you consider
conventional, and on how you define the ways of nature,'
the rest of the book attempts to convince readers that
only one view is right."
In addition, a critique of an
article by Fedoroff about the Pusztai affair illustrates how
many of her statements and conclusions were not based on the
research and were clearly false.
No differences were seen between
the groups of animals
Experts who reviewed the data
stated that there were no meaningful differences between
control and experimental groups, that the same cellular
differences could be seen in all groups - GMO-fed or not -
and that too few animals were used to allow statistical
significance to be achieved. (Royal Society 1999)
Again, Chassy and Tribe turn to
their friends in the Royal Society for support, but as you
can see in the photos, the cellular differences in the
lining of the stomach and intestines were substantial.
This potentially precancerous
cell growth was seen in all the GMO-fed groups, but not the
Chassy and Tribe chose not to cite Federoff on this point,
probably because she correctly acknowledges,
As for statistical significance,
only two statisticians have done an analysis with access to
all the raw data: a member of Pusztai's research team and a
member of The Lancet review team.
Both determined that the results
were statistically significant.
The diets were protein-deficient
By this time, Dr. Pusztai
had designed and published 270 studies. The diet parameters
for this study were consistent with other animal tests and
There was sufficient protein for the animals to
grow, and the vast majority of the protein in the rats'
diets came from the potatoes - which is the preferred way to
expose potato-related problems.
More importantly, the rats fed the normal potatoes did not
suffer from the maladies of those that ate the GMOs. Thus,
the protein levels, which were consistent among all groups,
were clearly not the cause.
By contrast, in safety studies funded by the biotech
industry, they often use too much protein. According to a
2003 paper (PDF) in Nutrition and Health that analyzed all
peer-reviewed feeding studies on GM foods, the percentage of
protein used in Monsanto's study on
Roundup Ready soybeans
was "artificially too high."
This "would almost certainly
mask, or at least effectively reduce, any possible effect of
the [GM soy]."
This was the primary study that Monsanto used to claim
its GM soybeans were safe for human consumption.
Different groups of rats
received different diets.
Chassy and Tribe may be
referring to false accusations by Sir Aaron Klug, who
attacked The Lancet editor for his decision to publish Pusztai's paper.
Klug claimed that the design was fatally
flawed because the rats received different protein content.
It appears that Sir Aaron, as
well as Chassy and Tribe, failed to actually read Pusztai's
published study, which states that all diets had the same
protein and energy content. Furthermore, the animals were
pair-fed, meaning they were given the same amount of food.
In contrast, biotech industry studies usually allow animals
to eat as much as they want - which can also mask effects.
Dr. Pusztai did vary the diets in ways that helped to
isolate the cause of problems. In different experiments he
fed raw, baked, and boiled potatoes. In all his experiments
he used an additional control group: non-GMO potatoes
(actually the parents of the GMOs) that were spiked with the
According to experts, Dr.
Pusztai's variations made it superior to the design of other
GMO safety studies.
The 2003 Nutrition and Health analysis
hailed it as unique and,
Some rats were fed raw potatoes
- raw potatoes are toxic to rats and might cause
disturbances to gastrointestinal cells
This feeble argument was
also attempted in 1998 to distort the findings, but the
studies design rules out this assertion.
In trials where raw GM potatoes
were fed to rats, the raw parent non-GMO potato was also fed
to other groups of rats (either with our without added GNA
Those fed the non-GMO raw potatoes did not suffer
the fate of those fed the GMOs. If raw potatoes were at
fault, all the rats would have been similarly damaged.
Three different varieties of
potatoes were fed to the three different groups of rats
(Royal Society 1999)
Here again, the details
don't support the accusation, but rather show how the
advocates spin facts to confuse.
The study did use three different potatoes. There was a
parent non-GMO potato, and two GM potato lines created from
the parent. The two lines were produced at the same time,
under the same conditions, using the same GNA lectin
But because of the unique and
unpredicted effects of the GMO transformation process
mentioned in Part 1, the two GM potatoes were not identical.
One had the same protein content as the parent, but its
"twin" had less.
In the animal feeding studies, however, they always compared
one non-GM potato (the parent) to just one of the GM
"offspring." And whenever they used the GM line that had
less protein, they compensated by adding lactalbumin (a
superior quality milk protein) so that the overall protein
content was equal between all groups.
Lancet published the paper
by Ewen and Pusztai over the objections of reviewers
The Lancet actually
tripled their normal number of reviewers to six.
Chassy and Tribe falsely claim
that multiple reviewers objected; in fact it was only one -
GMO advocate John Pickett. The other five wanted the paper
to be published.
But Chassy and Tribe use the phrase, "objections of
reviewers," falsely implying that multiple reviewers sought
to stop the publication.
According to Claire Robinson of GM
"You may think that Tribe
and Chassy are unaware of this, but you'd be wrong.
David Tribe has published on his own blog the criticism
of Pusztai's work by Nina Fedoroff, contained in her
book Mendel in the Kitchen, where she concedes that The
Lancet's 'editor, Richard Horton, stood by the
publication [of Pusztai's paper].
Five of 6 reviewers
had favored publication and he believed that it was
appropriate for the information to be available in the
When The Lancet published the
work, editors there published a critical analysis in the
Indeed, the key point of
that critical analysis is that more studies were needed to
isolate the cause of the profound damage to the rats. Bravo.
Of course more studies were
needed. But Dr. Pusztai was turned down in his request for
follow-up funds. In fact, no one has yet applied his
advanced safety testing protocols to the GM foods already on
the market to see if they cause the same damage in rats or
Furthermore, the analysis in The Lancet states,
The authors specifically
recommend the use of new technologies that can analyze
holistic changes in gene expression, protein production, and
They insist that,
That was published 11 years ago.
But biotech companies still refuse to employ these modern
holistic detection techniques to see if there might be new
allergens, toxins, carcinogens, or anti-nutrients in the GMOs that millions of people eat everyday.
Confirm New Allergen and Dangers in GMOs
In 2007, independent scientists finally published a holistic protein
analysis of one GM crop, Monsanto's
Mon 810 Bt corn, which had been
fed to consumers for the previous 10 years.
Sure enough, due to,
"the insertion of a single gene into
a [corn] genome," 43 proteins were significantly increased or
"Moreover, transgenic plants reacted
differentially to the same environmental conditions...
supporting the hypothesis that they had a strongly rearranged
genome after particle bombardment" by a gene gun.
The authors acknowledged that gene gun
insertion can cause,
"deletion and extensive scrambling of inserted
and chromosomal DNA."
One of the changed proteins in the GM corn was gamma zein,
well-known allergenic protein."
That allergen was not found in the
natural corn, however. The gene that produces gamma zein is normally
shut off in corn. But somehow it was switched on in
That means that some people who are not normally allergic
to corn might react to GM corn (which, of course, is unlabeled in
The authors of the study were far less worried about their discovery
of this new allergen, compared to the fact that a number of proteins,
"exhibited truncated forms having molecular masses significantly
lower than the native ones."
Such alterations, which they describe
"as a major concern," may transform harmless proteins into a
dangerous ones. Furthermore, their presence in GM corn
means that truly massive unexpected side effects have taken place in
the plants' biochemistry.
"Perhaps in some misguided sense
of fairness or balance, some journals have published unsound
papers that make claims about the safety of GM crops...
Peer-review is not always a guarantee that researchers'
conclusions are sound."
On this point I totally agree. An excellent example is
Monsanto's 1996 feeding study in the Journal of Nutrition,
which claimed that their Roundup Ready soybeans were
substantially equivalent to natural soybeans.
In addition to showing that Monsanto used too much protein,
mentioned above, the 2003 paper in Nutrition and Health said, the,
In one of the trials, for example, researchers
substituted only one tenth of the natural protein with GM
soy protein. In two others, they diluted their GM soy six-
According to Dr. Pusztai, who had published several studies
in that same nutrition journal, the Monsanto paper was "not
really up to the normal journal standards."
He told the
authors of Trust Us, We're Experts,
More examples of how Monsanto rigged their study:
Using older animals:
Monsanto researchers tested the GM soy on mature
animals, not young ones. "With a nutritional study on
mature animals," says Pusztai, "you would never see any
difference in organ weights even if the food turned out
to be anti-nutritional. The animals would have to be
emaciated or poisoned to show anything."
Never weighing organs:
even if there were organ development problems, the study
wouldn't have picked it up. That's because the
researchers didn't even weigh the organs, "they just
looked at them, what they call 'eyeballing,'" says Pusztai. "I must have done thousands of postmortems, so
I know that even if there is a difference in organ
weights of as much as 25 percent, you wouldn't see it."
according to Nutrition and Health, "No data were given
for most of the parameters." The paper didn't even
describe the exact feed composition used in the trials -
normally a journal requirement.
Monsanto analyzed the composition of GM versus non-GM
soy, instead of comparing test plots grown side-by-side,
Monsanto pooled data from many sites and climates. This
makes it extremely difficult to achieve statistically
significant differences, due to the high variability.
Although the paper referred to one
side-by-side test plot, for some reason the data from
that study was not in the article. Years later, medical
writer Barbara Keeler discovered the missing data from
the journal archives and found out why it had been kept
The omitted evidence not only demonstrated that
Monsanto's GM soy had significantly lower levels of
protein, a fatty acid, and an essential amino acid,
their toasted GM soy meal contained nearly twice the
amount of a soy lectin, which can interfere with the
body's ability to assimilate nutrients.
known soy allergen called trypsin inhibitor was as much
as 7 times higher in the toasted GM soy, compared to
non-GMO soy! According to Keeler's opinion piece
published in the Los Angeles Times, the study had
several red flags and "should have prompted researchers
and the FDA to call for more testing."
the FDA never got the data.
It's no wonder why GMO expert Dr. Michael Hansen of the
Consumers Union, the organization that publishes Consumer
Reports, concluded that Dr. Pusztai's potato research is,
Even if his study were correct,
it would only prove that those specific potatoes were
unsafe, and not that all GM crops are unsafe
showed that the unpredicted side effects from the process of
genetic engineering were the likely cause of the damage to
This has been the big sore spot for the biotech
industry, which produces its GMOs using the same process.
Even on David Tribe's own blog, Nina Federoff is quoted as
She is referring to the process
of "tissue culture," where a gene-spliced cell is cloned
into a plant. Both the insertion of the gene and the
subsequent cloning can cause significant, unpredictable
changes. Of the two, the cloning creates more DNA mutations.
That is probably why Federoff
The mutations are unique to each
GM plant line, but even massive disruptions do not
necessarily mean that a particular GMO is unsafe.
even be healthier. It's a genetic roulette. Therefore, Chassy and Tribe are technically correct: even though the
GMO transformation process is unpredictable and inherently
risky, not every GM crop is necessarily hazardous.
As Federoff says,
The trouble is, the superficial
studies conducted on GMOs miss most of the potential
The lax standards were originally the fault of the
Food and Drug Administration. Their own scientists' calls
for in-depth, long-term safety studies, but they were
overruled by the political appointee in charge - Monsanto's
former attorney and later their vice president. (Michael
now the US
Food Safety Czar.)
The editor of The Lancet wrote,
"It is astounding that the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not changed their
stance on genetically modified food adopted in 1992,"
which states that they do not believe it is "necessary
to conduct comprehensive scientific reviews of foods
derived from bioengineered plants...
This stance is taken despite
good reasons to believe that specific risks may exist...
Governments should never have allowed these products
into the food chain without insisting on rigorous
testing for effects on health. The companies should have
paid greater attention to the possible risks to health."
For the record, the potatoes in
question were a research project; they were never submitted
to regulators and they were never commercialized
True, they never went to
But if by using the term "research project," Chassy
and Tribe, like others before them, are implying that the
potatoes were never intended to be introduced, that is
The Rowett Institute and the
company Cambridge Genetics were planning to commercialize
the GNA potato and had contracts specifying how the
royalties were to be divided. (The company was to reap the
advantage of getting free safety studies.)
What's quite telling is that if these same hazardous
potatoes had been evaluated in the same superficial manner
that biotech companies normally test their GMOs, the spuds
would have easily landed on supermarket shelves.
made apparent to Dr. Pusztai about two years into his
research. He was asked to review several confidential
industry studies that were used to get GM soy, corn and
tomatoes approved in the UK. Reading those studies, he says,
was one of the greatest shocks of his life.
The studies were so superficial,
so poorly done, he realized what he was doing and what
industry was doing were diametrically opposed.
A few weeks later, when he Dr.
Pusztai confirmed that
his GM potato caused considerable
health problems in rats, he realized that his dangerous
potatoes could have sailed through industry 'safety'
studies, which don't assess the immune system, organ damage,
gut lining, hormonal system, cancer development,
Scientists are expected to
submit their findings to peer-review and publication in
Yes, and Dr. Pusztai's
study was published.
But the safety research conducted by
the biotech industry is almost never published. It is
usually submitted in secret to regulatory authorities and
neither peer-reviewed nor available for public inspection.
This double standard was pointed out by a Member of the UK
Parliament, Dr. Williams, during testimony related to the
"As I understand, all of the
evidence taken by the advisory committee [that approves
GM foods for human consumption] comes from the commercial companies, all of that is unpublished. This
is not democratic, is it?...
"So we leave it completely to the advisory committee and
its good members to take all of these decisions on our
behalf, where all of the evidence comes, simply, in good
faith, from the commercial companies? There is a hollow
democratic deficit here, is there not?"
"How is the general public out there to decide on the
safety of GM foods when nothing is published on the
safety of GM foods?"
Science in the
Dr. Pusztai warns:
"We must not underestimate the
financial and political clout of the GM biotechnology industry.
Most of our politicians are committed to the successful
introduction of GM foods.
We must therefore use all means at
our disposal to show people the shallowness of these claims by
the industry and the lack of credible science behind them, and
then trust to people's good sense, just as in 1998, to see
through the falseness of the claims for the safety of untested
The bastardization of science is not
unique to GMOs. It's pervasive.
Consider these numbers. One third of
the 500 UK scientists surveyed had been asked to change their
research conclusions by their sponsoring customer.
And these folks worked in government or
recently privatized institutes.
"A study of major research centers
in the field of engineering," according to The Atlantic, "found
that 35 percent would allow corporate sponsors to delete
information from papers prior to publication."
And a Tufts University study of 800
scientific papers showed that,
"more than a third of the authors
had a significant [undisclosed] financial interest in their
We have seen how corporatized research
of drugs has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and
But hazards in our food supply, especially those that
persist in the environment generation after generation, may dwarf
the other problems we've seen. Exposing the truth about GMOs is
Again in Dr. Pusztai's words:
"The problems with GM foods may be
irreversible and the true effects may only be seen well in the
future. The situation is like the tobacco industry. They knew
about it but they suppressed that information. They created
misleading evidence that showed that the problem wasn't so
serious. And all the time they knew how bad
Tobacco is bad enough. But genetic modification, if it
is going to be problematic, if it is going to cause us real
health problems, then tobacco will be nothing in comparison with