lunes, noviembre 28, 2005

Pusztai responds

World Renowned Biotech Critic Arpad Pusztai Answers His Critics

---The Syngenta-backed website CheckBiotech has published an article by the well-known Swiss biotechnology supporter, Dr Klaus Ammann, as part of the Swiss debate over the moratorium.

According to CheckBiotech, Ammann, is "calling on heavy scientific ammunition" to attack those supporting the moratorium. Quite a bit of that "ammunition" is aimed at Dr Arpad Pusztai, amongst others, under headings such as "Hysteria without reason".

Here's Dr Pusztai's reply and Dr Ammann's original article. In passing, Dr Pusztai provides a vey interesting summary of the multiple health problems arising from GM crops that scientific research appears to point to.


Dear Jonathan,

I understand the frustration of an all-out, almost religious, believer in GM biotechnology, such as Klaus Amman, now that the Swiss have put a 5-year moratorium on growing GM crops in Switzerland. I still salute the common sense of the Swiss who, despite a huge industry-paid pro-GM campaign, came down on the side of precaution.

You do not have to be an economic genius to see that on its present showing this so-called "precise technology" cannot even predict the outcome of the gene-splicing technique used in the development of GM crops. It also does nothing for the consumer and even less for those farmers who would like to maintain the clean green image of Switzwerland and who do not want to squander this precious heritage handed down to them by their forefathers.

As far as the personal attacks on me are concerned, this is nothing new. I always find that people who run out of factual arguments sooner or later turn to trying to denigrate the scientific integrity of anyone who does not swallow hook-line-and-sinker their arguments in favour of GM crops. As far as I am concerned, I only respond to the, generally, scientifically questionable or even flawed arguments they level against me or against those scientists who prefer to read the evidence presented in peer-reviewed scientific papers than get involved in mud-slinging. I am also not going to get involved in the rights or wrongs of the Percy Schmeiser case as I am sure he can defend himself.

Dr Amman states:

"Hysteria without reason In both of the above cases (i.e. Pusztai and Schmeiser) it would be quite disturbing (?) to examine the scientific literature, because it would soon become clear what the facts are. Between then and now the numbers of publications relating to Pusztais' statements have grown to above 400. ( as an aside: I thought we wrote papers and not statements!)

The number of major studies concerning the safety of these kinds of foods published by experts in peer-reviewed journals has grown to about 30. And they all convey the same message: genetically modified foods are harmless1".

It is interesting how quickly the 400 publications all showing how wrong we were in our GM potato studies is reduced within the next para to about 30 studies. As it so happens, I know the scientific literature reasonably well and studied in detail most of the 19 major papers published between 1996 and mid-2004 on the health aspects of GM rops/foods. Indeed, in the last six years we have written three major reviews of the potential health effects of GM crops/foods. In fact, the last one has just been published. Obviously, Dr Amman and I must have read different papers because with the exception of a few papers written by industry-funded scientists I could not find the message in them that "genetically modified foods are harmless". If he reads our reviews and has the open mind of a true scientist, he will see what I mean.

Just for a taster:

Animals fed GM food had problems with blood and liver cell formation, damaged organs, bleeding stomachs, excessive cell growth, inflammation in lung tissue, and increased death rates. A preliminary (still unpublished) study in Russia reported that most of the offspring of female rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, that at least merits a re-run of her experiments. Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50 percent, and a GM food supplement killed about 100 Americans and cased 5,000-10,000 to fall sick. The only human feeding study ever conducted on GM crops showed that foreign transgenes transferred from food into intestinal bacteria. This has possible long-term implications and raises concerns that antibiotic resistant marker genes might create super diseases.

It has also been shown that transgenic DNA not only survives digestion, but can also found in the blood, liver, spleen and kidneys. DNA can even travel via the placenta into unborn. The crops designed to create the Bt-toxin were based on the assumption that it is not bioactive in mammals but when Bt-toxin was fed to mice, they developed a powerful immune response and abnormal and excessive cell growth in their intestines. Preliminary evidence (not fully published) shows that Philippine villagers living next to a Bt maize field developed a mysterious disease while the crop was pollinating - three seasons in a row - and blood tests also showed an immune response to Bt. The blood of farm workers exposed to Bt also developed Bt-specific antibodies. Together these suggest that Bt does react with humans, and that the assumptions used as the basis for safety claims are erroneous. Consider the implications if Bt genes, like Roundup Ready genes, were to transfer to gut bacteria. That could turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories.

If Dr Amman wants I can send him the references to all the published studies but he should also be able to get these if he takes the trouble and reads our reviews.

The impact on the environment may be even worse, since GM crops contaminate non-GM varieties and related species, and these and their genetic constructs may persist in the environment for generations. The Bt-toxin may harm beneficial insects and damage soil bacteria. The over-use of herbicides on GM crops can contaminate water and harm humans and wildlife. Foreign genes may transfer to soil bacteria and self-propagate for years. And the reliance on a few crop varieties controlled by multinationals reduces crops diversity and leaves our food supply vulnerable.

I was very interested to learn that according to Dr Amman:

"Among nutritional science experts, the experiments done by Pusztai are being unanimously judged as inconclusive and incorrectly designed".

I am afraid, Dr Amman can by no stretch of the imagination be called a nutritional expert, so I wonder how he came across so many nutritional science experts and had the chance to question them about my nutritional expertise so as to arrive at the unanimous damning conclusion that our experiments were "inconclusive and incorrectly designed".

Dr Amman also states: "This is a paradox when one considers that Pusztai normally has an excellent reputation where publications are concerned".

Unfortunately, as I could not accept his comments damning our expertise because of his lack of nutritional know-how, I must also decline his back-handed compliments.

Finally, we come to the most important part of Dr Ammann's piece, which really shocked me coming from someone who is highly regarded in some scientific and biotechnology circles but who apparently regards "basic research" as "interesting" but "irrelevant where the effect on agriculture and nutrition is concerned":

(Full quote: "For a fair and balanced assessment of risk" "This certainly does not imply that we should discontinue investigating security questions, rather that we should learn to distinguish between necessary applied security research and basic research, which though interesting, is irrelevant where the effect on agriculture and nutrition is concerned.)

Here I rest my case because I cannot come to any sort of agreement with someone who denigrates the role of basic research.
Best wishesArpad

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2 Comentarios:

Blogger BlogMaster dijo...

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2:05 a.m.  
Blogger BlogMaster dijo...

i was clicking the Next Blog button and caught yours, i have to say its very interesting, anyway thanks for the info.

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8:59 a.m.  

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