Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Tuesday, February 23, 1999 Published at 05:49 GMT


GM food scare is 'bad science'

GM debate: "Potentially very damaging consequences"

The BBC's Palab Ghosh: "Concern regarding the safety of all GM foods"
The report that triggered the scare over genetically-modified (GM) food 10 days ago has been attacked by some of the UK's leading scientists.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, 19 Fellows of the Royal Society said "it is a dangerous mistake ... to assume that all statements claiming to be scientific can be taken at face value".

Professor Patrick Bateson, biological secretary of the Royal Society: Scientists do get it wrong
It is the strongest rebuke yet from within the scientific community to the group of food researchers who published a report on 12 February seeking to legitimise the work of Dr Arpad Pusztai.

Food under the microscope
Dr Pusztai was fired by the Rowett Research Institute last year for revealing to the media his findings that rats fed on GM potatoes suffered damage to their vital organs.

The researchers' report sparked calls for a moratorium on GM studies and a ban on the sale of gene-altered foods.

[ image: Dr Arpad Pusztai: Fears over GM potatoes]
Dr Arpad Pusztai: Fears over GM potatoes
The Fellows who signed the Telegraph letter - among them, Nobel prize winner Dr Max Perutz, and Director General of Imperial Cancer Research Dr Paul Nurse - are unhappy with what they see as the irresponsible manner in which Dr Pusztai's fears were made public.

They believe that such research should have been checked by colleagues and published in a scientific journal for debate to ensure a distinction between "good science and bad science".

Earl of Selbourne, Royal Geographical Society: Peer review is the gold standard of science
"Good science is work that has stood up to detailed scrutiny by independent workers and contributes to new knowledge and understanding," the letter said.

Failure to handle research in this way only served to "mislead, with potentially very damaging consequences".

But environmentalists argue that, while these standards are suitable for the scientific community, all scientists should be able to speak to the public freely for the sake of a healthy debate.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Sci/Tech Contents

Relevant Stories

21 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Prince 'asked to curb GM attacks'

21 Feb 99 | UK Politics
Sainsbury loan 'pre-dated appointment'

20 Feb 99 | UK Politics
PM puts science above 'scares'

Internet Links

Downing Street - GM foods: The facts

Friends of the Earth - Species threatened by GM foods

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer