Food prof. suspended after claims about genetics

Max More (maxmore@primenet.com)
Sat, 15 Aug 1998 12:04:27 -0700

An interesting story from the Nando Times <<http://www.nando.net/>www.nando.net>. I don't see in among the current articles now, so I'll include the whole thing. Don't miss the delightfully Medieval comment from Prince Charles at the end.

Max

Food professor suspended after claims about genetics

Copyright 1998 Nando.net
Copyright 1998 Reuters News Service
LONDON (August 13, 1998 08:18 a.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) - A professor
who questioned the safety of genetically modified food was suspended on Wednesday after the Scottish institute where he works found he did not have the
data to back some of his claims.

Professor Arpad Puztai of Aberdeen's Rowett Institute said in a television documentary broadcast on Monday that he had fed five rats on genetically modified potatoes that carried genes from the snowdrop and jackbean for 110 days -- equivalent to 10 years in human terms.

He said his research showed that the rats suffered from slightly stunted growth
and were more likely to be vulnerable to disease. It was thought to be the first time that trials of genetically modified food had showed harmful effects.

Andrew Chesson, a senior scientist at Rowett, said the institute had been inundated with requests for the raw data on which Puztai based his conclusions.

"We asked Dr. Puztai to gather that data in such a form that we could
circulate
it, and when we looked at that data a number of inconsistencies were found," Chesson told Reuters.

He said the professor was suspended on Wednesday. "The reason for the suspension was that some of the claims that he'd made about the effects of transgenic (genetically modified) potatoes could not be substantiated by the data he currently holds," he added.

Chesson said a number of long-term feeding studies conducted by Puztai were found to be incomplete.

He said the incident was a deeply embarrassing experience for the institute and
he apologized. "We have been misled by a very senior scientist at this institute. We acted in good faith on the information he provided us with."

Chesson said Puztai, 68, would leave Rowett once the data had been evaluated by
scientists at the institute and outside experts.

"We will of course complete the work that Dr. Puztai has undertaken, and we
will make that information available to anybody and everybody who is interested," he said.

Puztai said his results meant that genetically modified crops should be tested much more rigorously before being cleared for human consumption.

His views were front-page news and led to calls by some British politicians for
a moratorium on the sale of genetically modified foods.

But Chesson, who will head Rowett's evaluation team, said firmly: "It would be unwise to draw any conclusions whatsoever from the data that we currently hold."

Monsanto Co, the leading U.S. biotechnology company, is currently spending $1.63 million on an advertising campaign in Britain to promote the benefits of the new technology, which it says will make food more plentiful and reduce the need for chemicals in farming.

But many Britons are either skeptical or anxious about meddling with nature to produce food. More than 40 of the 300 experimental sites growing genetically modified trial crops have been torn up or damaged in the past six months by environmental campaigners.

Britain's Prince Charles, himself an organic farmer, fueled the debate in June with a warning that genetic engineering of food "takes mankind into realms that
belong to God and God alone."

By ALAN WHEATLEY, Reuters
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