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THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

7 May 2003

Dear friends and colleagues,

RE: New health warnings on GM foods

Arpad Pusztai, the scientist who first stunned the world with research claiming that GM crops might damage human health (and who lost his job as a result), is to release new findings that further support his early warnings.

Dr. Pusztai said that the work carried out by biotechnology companies on the human health hazard from GM food is inadequate. He also points to technical defects in the way GM plants are created.

According to a Sunday Times (UK) online news report, Pusztai’s study is contained in a book called Food Safety, which is a compilation of scientific papers that describes the contaminants and toxins contained in modern foods. He brings together all the scientific studies carried out into the safety of GM foods and subjects them to rigorous statistical and scientific scrutiny.

Meanwhile, other studies have also supported Pusztai’s research. The Sunday Times report states that the UK’s Food Standards Agency in a separate research, appeared to confirm some of Pusztai’s warnings. It showed that genetically modified DNA in plants can be taken up by gut bacteria in humans and animals. This finding was contrary to previous assurances from biotechnology firms, which had said DNA would be broken down in the gut shortly after consumption. It raises the possibility that alien genes inserted into crop plants and conferring properties such as antibiotic resistance could be passed on to bacteria, making them resistant, too.

Experts of the UK Royal Society have also concluded that though GM crops could offer substantial benefits, there is however, too little that was known about their potential health impact.

We reproduce below the news report from Sunday Times online for your information.

With best wishes,

Lim Li Lin and Chee Yoke Heong

Third World Network

121-S Jalan Utama

10450 Penang

Malaysia

Email: twnet@po.jaring.my

Website: www.twnside.org.sg

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REF: Doc.TWN/Biosafety/2002/H

Sunday Times Online

(http://www.agbios.com/main.php?action=ShowNewsItem&id=4339)

May 04, 2003

Scientist who pressed GM panic button raises new food health fears

A scientist who shocked the world with research claiming that genetically modified (GM) crops might damage human health is to release new findings supporting his warnings, writes Jonathan Leake.

Arpad Pusztai, who lost his job at the prestigious Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen after outlining his findings in a television programme in 1998, will publish the new research this week.

It warns that the work carried out by biotechnology companies into the human health hazard from GM food is inadequate and unsafe. It also points to technical defects in the way GM plants are created.

Pusztai’s study is contained in a book called Food Safety, a compilation of scientific papers which describes the contaminants and toxins contained in modern foods. In his section, Pusztai brings together all the scientific studies carried out into the safety of GM foods and subjects them to rigorous statistical and scientific scrutiny.

This weekend he said: “We found that there are only a few such studies and they show many problems. In particular, they illustrate that GM foods have never been publicly tested for their safety and wholesomeness. There is increasing research to show they may actually be very unsafe.”

The research comes at a crucial time. This autumn the Royal Society is expected to publish the results of the government-sponsored field trials of GM crops. The government is also about to sponsor a nationwide debate on the issue.

However, Britain’s Food Standards Agency has completed separate research appearing to confirm some of Pusztai’s warnings. It showed that genetically modified DNA in plants can be taken up by gut bacteria in humans and animals. This finding was contrary to previous assurances from biotechnology firms, which had said DNA would be broken down in the gut shortly after consumption.

It raises the possibility that alien genes inserted into crop plants and conferring properties such as antibiotic resistance could be passed on to bacteria, making them resistant, too.

Pusztai had been a plant researcher at the Rowett Institute until he appeared in a World in Action documentary on GM foods to describe how rats fed on GM potatoes had suffered gut lesions, retarded growth and other symptoms.

He spoke fewer than a dozen sentences but his words reverberated around the world, infuriating GM firms and the scientific establishment. They claimed his research had been poorly done and that he should not have revealed the results before having it reviewed by peers.

However, it was later approved and published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Pusztai’s first warnings have been echoed by the Royal Society. Its experts last year concluded that GM crops could offer substantial benefits but said too little was known about their potential health impact.

 


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