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Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK


Pusztai attacks his critics

Dr Pusztai: The RS didn't look at the most recent data

Dr Pusztai responds to the Royal Society criticism
Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist at the centre of the row over the safety of genetically-modified (GM) foods, says he has been unfairly treated by a Royal Society (RS) review of his research.

Dr Pusztai sparked public alarm when he claimed on television last summer that rats in his laboratory fed on GM potatoes had suffered damage to their internal organs and their immune systems.

Food under the microscope
In a report published on Tuesday, the society dismissed his research as irrelevant and inconclusive. A panel of six un-named toxicologists said his experiments were flawed in many "aspects of design, execution and analysis".

But Dr Pusztai said in a statement to the BBC that the panel had failed to look at his most recent data and had not taken up an offer to discuss his work.

Insufficient time

"Unfortunately the RS felt that speed was of the essence and did not accept my offer of co-operation," he said. The panel did not have sufficient time to consider all of the issues involved, he claimed.

"I feel considerable sadness that we have all missed a great opportunity to find ways to move forward on this important issue. It is my belief that most people find tampering with the genetic make-up of our basic foodstuffs a cause for concern, given the perceived lack of proper and exhaustive biological testing.

"It is essential that GM foods are made as safe as can be and I reiterate my concerns about the lack of stringency in their testing at present."

Dr Pusztai received support from Professor Ian Pryme, from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Bergen in Norway.

Further consideration

He was one of 20 scientists in February who made public their unhappiness with the way Dr Pusztai has been treated. Dr Pusztai was removed from his post at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen shortly after he went public with his claims.

Professor Pryme said he was "very surprised and disappointed" at the Royal Society report. He pointed out that Dr Pusztai had always said his results were preliminary, adding that they raised questions about genetically-modified foods which needed further consideration.

Professor Pryme said Dr Pusztai was willing to discuss these issues but no one had accepted the challenge of doing so.

"Why this great reluctance to sit down and have a good scientific discussion?" asked Professor Pryme. "I think it's just a big cover up - it's been a big cover up since the start of the whole proceedings."

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