Royal Society rejects Pusztai’s GM research

A leading British scientific institution has rejected widely publicised research conducted by Dr Arpad Pusztai into the effects of feeding rats Genetically Modified (GM) potatoes, adding that it the research cannot be used to justify claims that GM food is harmful to human beings or not.

In April 1999 the Royal Society established a working group to examine the issues related to the possible toxicity of GM potatoes, reviewing all available data relating to work at the Rowett Research Institute in this area.

The report’s main conclusions are as follows:

  • On the basis of the information available, it appears that the reported work from the Rowett Research Institute is flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis and that no conclusions should be drawn from it.
  • No convincing evidence of adverse effects from GM potatoes was found. Where the data seemed to show slight differences between rats fed predominantly on GM and on non-GM potatoes, the differences were uninterpretable because of the technical limitations of the experiments and the incorrect use of statistical tests.
  • The work concerned one particular species of animal, when fed with one particular product modified by the insertion of one particular gene by one particular method. However skilfully the experiments were done, it would be unjustifiable to draw from them general conclusions about whether genetically modified foods are harmful to human beings or not. Each GM food must be assessed individually.
  • The whole episode underlines how important it is that research scientists should expose new research results to others able to offer informed criticism before releasing them into the public arena.

The Royal Society produced a review of what was known scientifically about the use of GM plants for food in September 1998.

While welcoming the Royal Society’s admission that more research is needed into the health effects of GM food.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) has criticised the Society over the way in which it reviewed Dr Pusztai’s research. FoE says the Society refused to name the six scientists who had reviewed it and to have refused an invitation from Dr Pusztai to talk to its reviewers. The reviewers didn’t even have all of Dr Pusztai’s results before reaching their conclusions, FoE says.

“Instead of attacking one scientist’s work because he dared to speak out, the Royal Society should be calling loud and clear for the research to be repeated,” said FoE food campaigner Adrian Bebb. “That’s the only way of finding our for certain what the risks of GM food and crops may be.”

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