Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
GM food study was 'flawed'
Dr Arpad Pusztai: Stands by his work
Dr Pusztai claimed rats in his Scottish laboratory suffered damage to their vital organs and immune systems as a result of being fed GM potatoes.
The panel said: "It would be unjustifiable to draw from it general conclusions about whether genetically-modified foods are harmful to human beings or not."
The institute said he had ignored scientific protocol by going public with his claims before the research had been peer reviewed and published in a recognised scientific journal.
Summoned before the House of Commons Science and Technology select committee, Dr Pusztai stood by his claims and said he had no regrets. The committee, which also published a report on Tuesday on the handling of the whole affair, said the UK risked losing the benefits of GM technology unless the government led a rational debate on the issue.
When these were fed to the rats over a period of 10 days, Dr Pusztai claimed some of their organs shrank or did not develop properly, including the kidney, the spleen and the brain. He said the rats' immune systems also suffered.
"Where the data seemed to show slight differences between rats fed predominantly on GM and on non-GM potatoes, the difference were uninterpretable because of the technical limitations of the experiment and the incorrect use of statistical tests."
The panel said the whole episode underlined the importance of scientists exposing their work to critical appraisal from their colleagues before releasing information to the public.
"There are going to be new foods which must be analysed properly and they must be done to the highest scientific standards and peer reviewed, and then published in the public domain," Professor Patrick Bateson, vice president of the society, said.
The pressure group Friends of the Earth, which has campaigned against GM foods, said the report from the Royal Society did not change its view of the dangers - both to human health and to the environment - of GM foods.
"The public are concerned about the use of biotechnology in agriculture and I think they are behind the British Medical Association (BMA) which is calling for a pause so that we can properly assess the upsides and downsides of the application of biotechnology in food."
The BMA said on Monday that the UK Government should adopt a more cautious approach to GM foods. It said more research was needed into the environmental, agricultural and health impacts of the technology.