GMWATCH number 10
From Claire Robinson, GMWATCH editor
Dear all,

It's been a good month for truth, with Blair's hypocrisy over Iraq being laid bare by some unlikely types - from the US hawks whose orders he followed to former CIA and serving British intelligence operatives who accuse him of spinning and overstating their information. BBC TV's Panorama has hit its old crusading stride with two investigations impacting on GM and the food we eat, "The War Party" [see AMERICA'S WARS] and "The Chicken Run" [see FOOD SAFETY].  

And some leaked cabinet papers show that Blair's government is opposing European GM labelling laws, despite paying lip service to labelling, for fear of upsetting America, with Blair's Foreign Secretary is even peddling Washington's "We're doing this for Africa" line in the process. No wonder Blair received a LIAR! LIAR! PANTS ON FIRE AWARD this week in the Guardian:,7371,969404,00.html for more PANTS:

I have a treat for you this month in the form of Arpad Pusztai's and Stanley Ewen's presentations to the London Independent Science Panel conference on their ground-breaking research on GM food safety [see REPORT OF THE MONTH at the end of this bulletin]. Thanks to a campaign of suppression and obfuscation by the pro-GM scientific establishment, assisted by a largely compliant media, this research has not previously been accessible to the general public - outside the pages of The Lancet. Though my summary is longer and more technical than most of the articles we put out, it is, I hope, within the grasp of the non-scientist. It's important that we sceptics keep on top of the scientific issues - knowledge is ammunition!

Claire Robinson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>



A non-governmental organization has denounced the US for financing anti-AIDS programs in 50 countries on condition that they accept GM products from the United States. Julio Sanchez, representative of the Mesoamerican Trade, said the US Congress' approval of legislation to support AIDS research in these countries on the condition was an offense to the consumers there.

"The US government has told these 50 countries, including Latin American countries, that it will no longer finance HIV-AIDS related programs unless they buy its genetically engineered products," Sanchez, who is here attending the 5th round of preparatory talks on the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement, told a press conference. - "US denounced for conditional support for anti-AIDS programs", Xinhua News Agency, June 4, 2003

Political fallout from the Iraq war and a lack of real US concern for Africa  threaten catastrophe for millions of farmers in Africa, with the Americans torpedoing a French plan to ban the dumping of subsidised farm produce in African markets. The US spends between $3bn (£1.8bn) and $4bn a year subsidising 25,000 American cotton farmers - more than its annual aid budget to the entire African continent - flooding the world market with cheap cotton, while in west Africa, 10 million people rely on cotton growing for their livelihood.

French President Jacques Chirac has proposed a moratorium on all subsidies of produce that are sold in Africa, which could go a long way towards enabling African farmers to achieve self-sufficiency. But the plan had a frigid reception in Washington and at the G8. The US says its export credits should be exempt. - Andy McSmith, "US threatens to sink French plan to stop the West undercutting African farmers", The Independent, 2 June 2003
Amongst much else, Monbiot notes how the ugliest of the US's hidden export subsidies is its use of aid for dumping and as a means of penetrating the markets of poorer nations. The US government even states "with breathtaking frankness that its aid programme is 'designed to develop and expand commercial outlets for US commodities'." 'Africa's scar gets angrier', The Guardian, Tuesday June 3, 2003,9321,969259,00.html
George W. Bush has said, "European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa". This Guardian editorial tells the truth about the US's real contribution (or lack of it) to that great cause.,13365,967654,00.html
U.S. aid, despite George Bush's hype about "billions to fight AIDS", remains well below historical standards and far below other donor countries. It ranks 22nd in the percentage of its gross national income devoted to foreign aid - the lowest of any industrial nation.

The Cartagena Protocol, drawn up in 2000, needs to be ratified by just one more country, after Colombia ratified it recently, to become legally binding. The agreement forces exporters to provide detailed information about the contents and potential environmental risks of GM shipments before a destination country is required to accept it. The protocol's provisions, however, conflict sharply with WTO rules, which allow imports to be restricted only when clear scientific evidence shows that a crop could harm human health or the environment. Lawyers, environmentalists and industry groups agree that a clash between the two sets of rules is inevitable. Britain has signed but has yet to ratify the protocol, though this is due to take place shortly.,,172-694416,00.html
see also:
"Bush, like King Knut, cannot stem this tide, but, as the US has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and hence cannot and will not be party to the Biosafety Protocol, he will use every possible weapon to force GMOs and US technology on the world, such as the GM Food Aid, WTO and the Sacramento Ministerial meeting on biotechnology in late June, peppered with a bit of cajoling and even bribery of key policy and decision makers." - Patrick Mulvany, Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG)

The only African country the US managed to cajole into supporting its GM trade war against Europe has jumped ship due to "the need to preserve adequate and effective consumer and environmental protection." Friends of the Earth Europe's Geert Ritsema said: "We're delighted that Egypt has withdrawn from this US attempt to force GM food and crops into Europe.  Countries should be allowed to choose what they eat and what they grow in their fields.  The United States should withdraw its WTO challenge, and stop trying to bully Europe over GMOs."  The decision could be a blow to US efforts to win developing country support for the case, reported The Financial Times.

UK government ministers want to kill off plans by Brussels to bring in a comprehensive regime for labelling GM food. They fear "negative fall-out" from Washington if they back the consumer friendly policy, leaked cabinet papers reveal. The documents, including a memo from Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, show that ministers are desperate not to antagonise America, the world's largest producer of GM crops. This is despite the fact that Labour has sought to ease fears over GM products by paying lip service to labelling in the past.

Straw's memo reveals that the British embassy in Washington is helping in the campaign to "minimise the risks" of alienating the United States. He argues that members of the European parliament should be "strongly" lobbied with the argument "made by Washington" that the plans could have "implications" for Africa, where America promotes GM technology. Straw discloses that Tony Brenton, Britain's acting US ambassador, has warned that voting for the labelling regime would be a "hard sell" to the Bush administration."Our international trading partners, particularly the US, will need to fully understand our motives if we are to minimise negative fall-out," Straw says in the "restricted"; memo, dated May 9.,,2087-699255,00.html

 BBC Panorama's "The War Party" examined the US "neo-conservatives", the small and unelected group of right-wingers, who critics claim have hijacked the White House. The programme makers named the American Enterprise Institute as one of the extreme right-wing libertarian think tanks that controls the Bush administration and its policy through such people as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle.

AEI promotes "a strong foreign policy" and the "liberation" of countries the US doesn't approve of. In this aspect and others it resembles another influential think tank, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which believes that America should use its power to shape the world and further American interests across the world - by military means if necessary.

A recent AEI publication on the environment rubbishes critics of Bjorn "there's no environmental problem industry can't solve" Lomborg; doubts that global warming has anything to do with pollution; and calls people whose health has been damaged by chemicals "chemophobes", i.e. mentally ill.

AEI has a revolving door into our old friend the Hudson Institute, sharing directors and "scholars". Two of the Hudson "scholars" are, of course, Dennis and Alex Avery, famous for their championing of GM foods and pesticides and for their hatred of organic food, on the basis that some of it is grown in manure, though Monsanto's sponsorship of the Hudson might weigh into the argument. Let's hope these innocents never have to suffer the shock of finding out that chemically farmed and GM food is often not only grown in manure (this time uncomposted), but even sewage and reclaimed factory waste.


The Panorama investigation "The Chicken Run" looked at how frozen chickens are pumped full of water to make them weigh more. When you pay for one of these chickens, up to 50% will be water - a good cost-saving wheeze for the industry. Trouble is, the water falls out. So industry has come up with a cunning plan to make the water stay in - they pump in a "mix" derived from bits of pigs and cows to glue the water to the chicken. This is quite legal (though not in organic production). A man from the Food Standards Agency agreed to an interview in which he was skewered by the reporter, swore, and walked out. He agreed to resume 2 weeks later, when he barked out a prepared statement to the effect that the Agency didn't mind what happened to the chicken as long so long as it was legal and the labels were accurate.

The consumer's only ally used to be DNA testing on the frozen water, sorry, chicken, which would reveal the presence of pig and cow DNA. But the program revealed that a company in Germany has come up with a way of degrading the DNA from the pig and cow remains so that it does not show up on tests. The program did not make the point that sanitising adulterated chicken is unlikely to remain the company's only activity. As more countries adopt measures demanding the labeling of GM products, and consumers continue to insist that they won't buy them, has industry found a way around the "skull-and-crossbones" GM label?

One body we can rely upon NOT to ask the question is the Food Standards Agency, whose spokesman initially claimed that the practice of chicken adulteration had been eradicated and only admitted otherwise when presented with a fat dossier of evidence collected by the program's reporters.

Arpad Pusztai, the scientist who shocked the world with his research findings that GM) crops might damage human health, has published a new review of the safety data on GM foods. Pusztai's study is contained in a new 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 the (few) scientific studies carried out into the safety of GM foods and subjects them to rigorous statistical and scientific scrutiny. It's a revelation of sloppy science, information gaps and logic avoidance.

He told the Sunday Times, "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."

Here are the book publication details: Food Safety: Contaminants and Toxins. Editor: J P F D'Mello, Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh, UK. Publication Date: April 2003. Number of Pages: 480 Pages. Binding: Hardback. ISBN: 0851996078. Price: £80.00  (US$145.00)

***The chapter, including truly worrying photos of rats' guts damaged by eating GM foods, can be downloaded as a pdf here***
The chapter (especially the conclusion) is accessible to the non-scientist, perhaps with occasional aid of a good dictionary or medical dictionary.

Dr Pusztai and his research colleague, Dr Stanley Ewen, were two of the speakers at the Independent Science Panel (ISP) conference on GM which took place in London on May 10. For their presentations, see REPORT OF THE MONTH, at the end of this bulletin.


Prakash's AgBioView list has some interesting "Advice to Scientists on the Current British GM Debate from someone calling him/herself "Sheila Anderson (Real Estate Publisher from Florida)". "Sheila" advises the pro-GM scientists, wisely perhaps, to keep off science: "The most important thing is to be nice, because that will sell more of the science than being smart... Scientific explanations are not needed... stress the basics only. Repeat the obvious - that all food is organic, and everything we have eaten all along has been modified".

The "nature is the enemy" preoccupations of the pro-GMers are typically to the fore: "Keep discussion topics to everyday concerns of consumers. Do they know how much bacteria there is [sic] in 'organic' farming methods, or how to remove allergens to peanuts?" [No, but Monsanto knows quite a bit about how to put allergens into soy, since their GM soy was found to contain higher levels of an allergen than the non-GM parent.]

She goes on: "How about bringing back the taste in tomatoes?" [May we suggest growing them in soil? Most chemically grown tomatoes are grown in rockwool of the sort that you insulate your loft with, and fed a solution of only those minerals that promote growth.]

Not one to neglect the Third World and the terrorist threat, Ms Anderson continues: "And, it's better to figure out how to feed starving people in Africa and Asia before more terrorists are recruited, out of desparation [sic]. That research into crops that will grow in desserts [sic!], etc. is part of what we need for peace." Ms Anderson's persuasive prose has inspired me to say to those brave British gene-bashers: come up with a GM crop that will grow in a lemon meringue pie and I will give up writing this list to personally take both pie and crop to the people of Africa. I'm sure they will be grateful.

*** Meet Uncle Sam's very own GM Information Minister - code name: Comical  Praki:  Black propaganda, covert operations, Words of Mass Deception... Comical Praki's the man!  For more on Comical Praki, see THE PANTS ON FIRE HOT SHOT: ***

A refusal to promote or endorse the merits of organic food by Sir John Krebs, head of the Food Standards Agency, has enraged Michael Meacher, the environment minister, and he is writing increasingly strident letters demanding co-operation. Krebs has stalled Meacher for seven months, saying there is no evidence that organic food is better for the public. In a handwritten addition to his most recent letter, Meacher says: "I am disappointed at your response following our meeting, and had expected, and am still expecting, a much more substantive and robust statement from you of the particular value and merits of organic production."

Meacher's irritation follows months of requests to Krebs to organise research to test whether organic food could have nutritional or safety merits over traditionally produced food, some of which has high pesticide residues. Sir John, who promised he would do so last November, has so far failed to suggest any programme. In addition, the minister wanted more information on the FSA website about the benefits of organic food, but there has been no action.,9061,961936,00.html For more on Krebs' pro-GM , anti-organic drive:


House prices may be adversely affected by the proximity of GM crop sites, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said as the National GM Debate was launched in London. RICS said there would be "chaos in the countryside" with property unless a stringent GM site registration scheme was brought in. Although the government is obliged under European law to keep a register of those areas where GM crops are being grown, RICS said it was concerned that insufficient thought had been given to how such a list would be drawn up and maintained. - Michael McCarthy , "GM crops could harm property values, surveyors warn", The Independent, 4 June 2003

Genetically modified crops fail to produce significant reductions in pesticides and are "a disaster waiting to happen," a report by an international panel of scientists says. The panel says that GM crops were also unreliable and unstable. By far the better route would be sustainable farming based on organic principles, says the report. The report, compiled for the Institute of Science in Society, reviewed 200 scientific papers studying the effectiveness and use of GM crops.

The report is signed by a number of notable scientists including TV botanist David Bellamy. It finds that GM crops have cost the US an estimated £7.3billion amid "worldwide rejection". The panel says: "Massive crop failures of up to 100 per cent" of GM crops have been reported in India." - London Evening Standard, 3 June 2003 See The Independent Science Panel on GM: Final Report


GM crops and herbicide use are contributing to the rise of a strong strain of horseweed, troubling farmers who likely will have to spend millions of dollars to fight the plant that is immune to glyphosate - the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. A scientist who confirmed the horseweed's presence in an Arkansas cotton field said it could cost the state's farmers as much as $9 million to combat it next year. The weed is also present in fields from the Midwest to the East Coast.

Ken Smith, of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, said the weed stalks in Mississippi County were eventually killed with difficulty by a mixture of chemicals, but the wind-blown seeds likely have spread to other fields in the region. "We're probably to the point where it's going to be too late to give them good control this year and they're going to suffer some yield loss,'' Smith said. - Associated Press, June 4, 2003

Morden, Manitoba, Canada: About 15 Greenpeace demonstrators locked themselves inside an agricultural research station to protest the facility's testing of GM wheat. "We want to let people know about the risks that GE wheat pose to the environment and pose to Canadian farmers and to let the Canadian government know that we will not let them carry on these close ties they have with Monsanto," said Holly Penfound, one of the protesters.

Fred Tait, a farmer and past vice-president of the National Farmers Union, said he believes GM wheat will contaminate regular wheat. "Here we have the Government of Canada, in combination with Monsanto, going to release a variety of wheat into our system that will totally contaminate our wheat supply." - cp agriculture news, Jun 5, 2003

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has called on Monsanto Canada to withdraw its application of Roundup Ready Wheat (RRW), which is currently before the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.  In a May 22 letter to Monsanto, the CWB detailed the "devastating economic impact" the introduction of RRW will have on western Canadian farmers. "Monsanto has said in the past it would not introduce RRW unless it was beneficial to farmers," Ritter, CWB's chairman, said. "Well, there are no benefits. So we're asking Monsanto to put the interests of their customers, western Canadian farmers, ahead of their own commercial interests and put the brakes on RRW, before Prairie farmers suffer serious financial consequences."


"GM 'miracle' crops such as golden rice have been promoted as a means of combating the vitamin A deficiency that kills over a million children in Asia and Africa each year and sends many more millions blind. What is not explained is that children do not suffer from vitamin A deficiency because rice contains too little vitamin A, but because they eat little else besides rice. A child would need to eat about 7kg a day of cooked golden rice - about 20 bowlfuls - to obtain the required amount of vitamin A. Encouraging people to grow and consume crops rich in vitamin A such as beans, pumpkins, ivy gourd and leafy green vegetables would tackle vitamin A deficiency more effectively.

"We are also told that cereal production in Africa averages one tonne a hectare - the same as in Roman Britain - and that the use of pesticides and drought resistant GM cereals is probably the only means to increase yields, giving food security and generating cash incomes. But there is no consistent evidence that GM crops require fewer chemicals and yield more. In one study, GM soya produced by agrochemical giant Monsanto had 6% lower yields than ordinary soya and 11% less than high-yielding ordinary soya.

"We have been here before. The Green Revolution of the 1960s was launched to address hunger in poor countries. It introduced a few uniform hybrid crop varieties, which were grown in large monocultures and relied on high chemical inputs and extensive irrigation.

"While the Green Revolution initially increased yields - mainly of hybrid rice and wheat grown by commercial growers in Asia and Latin America - these gains were eventually offset by resulting soil erosion and the evolution of new pests and diseases. In Africa, it failed to deliver the promised benefits as the technologies were unsuited to local conditions, ineffective, expensive and unpopular with poor communities." - ActionAid's Alex Wijeratna, "The GM mirage will not help the poor", The Guardian, June 4, 2003,2763,970123,00.html

The chairperson of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), Sushma Choudhary, has been moved on. Many believe this is because she took a firm line on GM crops and imports. She did not allow imports of GM corn-soya blend by CARE-India and CRS. She rejected Monsanto's Bt cotton, Mech 915, which was slated for cultivation in north India, this summer. And she called for more field trials of GM mustard seeds. The Indian agriculture minister, Ajit Singh was also forced to quit for taking a pro-farmer stand.  Mr Singh has made a strong case for the farmers of the developing countries at the WTO.

A new scientific study of GM (Bt) cotton production in Andhra Pradesh, India, together with a film, shows how farmers who planted Monsanto-Mayhco's Bt cotton in their fields suffered severe losses.

Such farmers have no subsidies or insurance to fall back on. Andhra Pradesh is an area, in fact, which has seen a high level of suicide in the past when poor farmers have been forced into debt.

Now Monsanto-Mayhco's expensive seeds have brought a harvest of anger. A film to accompany the new study, made by women farmers, powerfully documents the traumatic season of Bt cotton.

The published report called Did Bt Cotton Save Farmers in Warangal along with a CD containing a 23 minute long power film called Why are Warangal Farmers Angry with Bt Cotton are available at a cost price of ten euros. For more information,
please write to Ms Jayasri, Joint Convenor, AP Coalition in Defence of
Diversity on her email: Jayasri <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>.


"Field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the European Union (EU) have plummeted by 87% since 1998, according to a European Commission (EC) investigation."
"Two-thirds of large agroscience companies have cancelled at least one GMO research project during the same period..."
"Most Europeans consider GM foods "of little value and dangerous for society," the Eurobarometer survey found..."
"We are beginning to see early-stage research in Europe moving overseas and I expect that to continue. And multinational companies will probably not keep their R&D headquarters in Europe if they don't see a market here - especially if they also see their staff facing public hostility over what they do for a living." - Joyce Tait, director of Edinburgh University's Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (Innogen)
All quotes from Nature Biotechnology, May 2003 Volume 21 Number 5 pp 468 - 469

Members of Brazil's radical landless movement, the Movimento Sem Terra (MST), have invaded a farm belonging to the US-based multinational Monsanto in the state of Goias. The MST said that the action was taken in protest at the illegal growing of GM crops. This is the third estate owned by Monsanto that has been occupied by the MST so far this year. The Ruling Workers' Party (PT)'s attitude to GM crops is ambiguous: it has banned the sowing of any new crops, but stockpiles of GM crops from the previous harvest can still be sold.
- World Markets Analysis, June 4, 2003

"Strike the Fiercest Blow Against Monsanto" - a Broad anti-GMO Alliance Announces Launching of National and International Campaign vs. MONSANTO The Resistance and Solidarity Against Agrochemical TNCs (RESIST!) - the broadest and largest anti-GMO alliance in the country - announced the launching of a national BOYCOTT campaign against agro-chemical giant Monsanto and its products.
NEWS RELEASE, June 5, 2003


LIVING WITH THE FLUID GENOME by Dr Mae-Wan Ho The biotech empire is fast collapsing because it has got the science wrong. Read this riveting inside story of the fluid genome from a scientist who has been warning that GE is both dangerous and futile for over a decade. Find out why the whole biotech enterprise, from GM crops and gene drugs to human cloning, is a phenomenal waste of public finance and scientific imagination, and, most importantly, what it means to be living with the fluid genome.

Quote from the book: "The responsiveness of genes and genomes to the environment makes clear that the only way to keep genes and genomes constant and healthy is to have a balanced ecology... On the other hand, it is definitely futile to think that we can go on ruining our ecosystem and stay healthy so long as we have 'good' genes... Genes, unlike diamonds, are not forever."
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"GM Crops: Do we need them? Are they safe?"

The first conference of the Independent Science Panel, convened to promote science for the public good independent of commercial and government interests, was held at Kings College, London on 10 May 2003. Celebrity botanist David Bellamy attended and spoke, as did environment minister Michael Meacher. But for many, the highlights of the day were the presentations by Dr Arpad Pusztai and his co-researcher, Dr Stanley Ewen, on their research on GM potatoes. A summary of Pusztai's and Ewen's presentations (checked by the authors) is given below. Comments by GMWATCH, as opposed to those of the speakers, are in square brackets. We shall put out summaries of the other speakers' presentations on the 'GMWATCH daily' list - if you are not on that list and would like a copy, please let us know: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ARPAD PUSZTAI, formerly of the Rowett Research Institute, Scotland, gave a talk, "What can science say on the safety of GM foods?", stating the need for a protocol for establishing the safety or otherwise of GM foods. It was not enough to claim [as industry and governments have done] that GM foods are 'substantially equivalent' to non-GM counterparts. The concept of substantial equivalence had not been defined or quantified scientifically, and therefore had no meaning. Substantial equivalence needed to be put on a rational basis. For example, amounts of known biologically active compounds in GM foods and non-GM counterparts should be compared. The GM and non-GM plants to be compared should be grown under identical conditions.

This was exactly what was done in Arpad's experiments at the Rowett [which ended in his losing his job when he went public with his findings that GM potatoes had damaged the health of rats]. The two lines of potatoes tested - one a GM potato, the other the non-GM parent line, were first grown under identical conditions at Rothamstead. But to make sure that the different lines were grown under identical conditions for the analyses they were re-grown at SCRI (Invergowrie) in fields with tents erected over them.  So these were the third generation after the genetic modification.  Even so, the protein content of the two lines was different, and other components such as lectin were also found in differing amounts. With GM foods, it is difficult to find two lines having the same composition even when there is every reason for them to be the same (same type, same growing conditions, etc.).

After the conference, Arpad commented that in the Monsanto publication on soya in Journal of Nutrition in 1996 the scientists compared soya lines from different parts of the country instead of test and control lines grown at the same site.  This is the more curious because the soya lines had already been grown by Monsanto at a single site in Puerto Rico - but findings on these Puerto Rico lines were never published. Could this be because they showed major differences between the GM and control lines?

So does substantial equivalence mean anything at all?

[Even if substantial equivalence were put onto a scientific basis, Arpad has pointed out elsewhere, it would only show up differences in known compounds. In order to identify possible new toxins, anti-nutrients or allergens, toxicological and nutritional testing would need to be done.] A GM food is unlikely to be highly poisonous to the extent that it will produce immediate ill effects, but long-term effects should be investigated.

Arpad suggested animal testing as a first step towards establishing whether a GM food is safe. The diets fed should be a GM food variety compared with the non-GM parent line; a third diet should test non-GM feed spiked with the gene product isolated from the GM variety. The diets should have the same amount of protein and energy value. Then, if the diets do not support growth in the same way, you know there is a problem. Young growing animals should be used because they need food [so are keen to eat it] and because their body organs and systems are still developing, so any harmful effects of the food are more likely to show up than if mature animals were used. The animals should be weighed daily and when they are killed at the end of the experiment, they should be dissected and the individual organs weighed [underdevelopment or enlargement of organs as compared to the control group, as indicated by different weights, can show problems]. Microscopic analysis of the tissues can show up changes in the tissue that may indicate dangers from the food.

Regarding food crops grown to be fed to livestock [as most GM crops currently are], a farmer is primarily concerned as to how much meat the animal produces per kilo of feed it devours. Why should this test not be applied to GM crops?

In the animal feeding trial done by Aventis for their Chardon LL maize, the starting weights of the animals were different. This is wrong; weights should be the same so that the weights at the end can be measured and the significance assessed.

Arpad is one of very few researchers who have done such testing. Industry may claim to have done animal feeding studies, but as Arpad said in answer to a question from the audience on the elusive Chinese research that claimed to have repeated his experiments and to have found no problems with GM, "In science, if it isn't published, it doesn't exist."  

In his 110-day study on male rats, some were fed GM potatoes (engineered to express a protein called a lectin taken from the snowdrop, the GNA lectin, meant to confer insect resistance) and some fed potatoes from the parent line (non-GM). Others were fed non-GM potatoes spiked with the gene product, a lectin (type of protein) known to be non-toxic to mammals. At the end of the study the rats were killed and their guts were compared. The organs were weighed and were found to be different in rats fed GM potatoes.

He showed some spectacularly worrying slides of the dissected intestines where the difference could clearly be seen: the GM-fed animals had enlarged crypts [small sacs in the intestines]. In the GM-fed rats he also found a large increase in the numbers of lymphocytes - white blood cells involved in the immune response, which are known to increase when intestinal damage occurs. Blood samples showed that the GM food did suppress the immune response, an important factor for young and old people [not to mention the increasing numbers of immune-compromised people of all ages].

He also found abnormalities in the sexual organs of the GM-fed rats. As the rats used were all male, a study should be done with female rats, to see if their sexual organs would be affected too. If female rats showed problems with development of sexual organs, this would be a compelling reason to do reproductive experiments. Arpad said, "If there are any problems in this respect it will be no good to say in thirty or so years' time, when the already strong trend of reduced human fertility in the Western world may be reduced even further, that we are sorry because we did not know!"

In the 110-day experiment the rats on COOKED GM potatoes were growing significantly less than on the control potatoes. It is emphasised that, contrary to the claims of some of Arpad's attackers, these were NOT raw potatoes.

If the diet consisting of the non-GM parent line spiked with the gene product isolated from the GM plant does not produce ill effects, then the problem lies with the process of gene insertion - for instance, the vectors or promoters used to insert and switch on the desired gene.

If animal studies showed no ill effects, then the food should be tested in a similar way on human volunteers. The young, old, and sick are most at risk, including people with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Arpad said we ought to take this seriously because when studies are done independently there seem to be problems with GM food. He added that his attackers were able to crucify him because he was alone, since no one else at that time had openly attempted to test the safety of GM food.

After the conference, Arpad said that his experiments had been designed not to find out the safety of one particular GM food, but the ideal protocol for testing all GM foods for safety. His results suggested a further research protocol which could show whether the ill effects seen in the rats were reversible. The experiment could contain a group of rats who would be fed for, say, a 10-day period with a diet containing the GM product, and then for the next 10 days with a diet without the GM product to see if the changes reversed themselves or not. Another group could be fed the GM product for 20 days to see whether changes seen in 10 days would be reversed, reinforced, or have some other outcome. Arpad said, "This way one can get a reasonable idea of the possible long-term effects of GM feed consumption.  At any stage the reversibility can be tested for by putting the rats back to control diet.  It is unlikely that anybody will ever do this massive experiment.  We were planning to do it but 'where is the snow of yesteryear?'"

"Many scientists and the lay public hungry for information have been struck by the scarcity of published data relevant to the safety of GM foods. Not only that, but the scientific quality of what has been published is, in most instances, not up to the usually expected standards of good science." - Dr Arpad Pusztai

STANLEY EWEN, consultant histopathologist at Grampian Hospitals Trust and co-researcher with Arpad Pusztai on the GM potato experiments, gave a talk called "Eating growth factors? No thanks". He explored the effects of the GM potatoes on the rats' guts after a 10-day feeding study.

He said the research showed that this potato had growth factor effects, ie caused proliferation of cells. He did not believe that it was fully carcinogenic (cancer-causing) but that we must be careful as the things we put in our mouths can steal control systems in our bodies. Feeding the GM potatoes for just 10 days produced an elongation of the small bowel mucosa (lining). This effect had been observed by other independent researchers, such as Fares et al [Fares, N.H. and El-Sayed, A.K. (1998) Fine structural changes in the ileum of mice fed on delta-endotoxin-treated potatoes and transgenic potatoes. Natural Toxins 6], who fed raw GM (Bt) potatoes to mice:
* Fares found a +21.7% increase in ileal (part of the small intestine) cell size in 14 days;
* Ewen and Pusztai found a +57.8% increase in jejunal (another part of small intestine) crypt size in 10 days.

He showed slides of the dissected gut showing the increased elongation of the crypt in a GM-fed rat. The researchers found this effect in the ileum as well as the jejunum, so it affected the whole intestine. The study found that crypt cell count and the mitotic (cell proliferation) rate increased in the small bowel of young rats fed GM potatoes. These increases show that GM potatoes acted as a growth factor leading to hyperplasia (increased production and growth of normal cells) of the intestine. The crypt length had increased by around 25%. The lymphocyte (white blood cells involved in immune response) count increased in rats fed GM potatoes:
* Parent line: 132
* GM: 214
Both raw GM potatoes and cooked GM potatoes were used, and the effect was greater using raw GM potatoes.

Ewen and Pusztai published their study in the Lancet (vol 354, no 9187, Oct 16, 1999). They commented on the effects on the jejunum of the GM potatoes that they appeared to be caused not by the GNA lectin but some element of the genetic engineering process itself.

The authors conclude, "The possibility that a plant vector in common use in some GM plants can affect the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract and exert powerful biological effects may also apply to GM plants containing similar constructs, particularly those containing lectins, such as soya beans or any plants expressing lectin genes or transgenes."

[Since the vector used in this GM potato is widely used in other GM crops, this research throws doubt on the safety of most GM foods currently on the market. This is why the research had to be suppressed and the messengers 'shot'.]
There were also microscopic changes in the colon: raw GM potatoes caused a thickening of the colon. Could active GM DNA reach the colon? Harry Gilbert et al [Newcastle feeding study] showed that GM DNA from soya does reach the colon in human ileostomy patients. These people have had their colon removed; material that has passed through the small intestine collects in a bag. The researchers analysed this material and found GM DNA, meaning that in people with intact colons, the GM DNA would have reached the colon.

Stanley then talked about the colon and growth factors, saying that disease of the colon in humans is common. It can be either inflammatory (ulcerative colitis) or neoplastic (polyp-cancer sequence).

He asked, how safe is it to expose diseased colon linings to growth factors? He said that colon cancer is the biggest killer of non-smoking males in Scotland, and that North-East Scotland has a high incidence of polyps. About 30% of polyps turn into invasive cancer. If the faecal content of the colon is unbalanced (for example, if a person eats a lot of red meat, then the levels of bile salts in the colon increase), then a benign polyp starts to grow on the surface, increasing in size due to growth factors. Malignancy may develop later.

He said that the polyp-cancer sequence is thought to take about three years and seems to involve growth factors. Could extra growth factors shorten this time? His conclusion is that raw GM foods may act as growth factors and could accelerate the polyp-cancer sequence.

He noted that the Flavr Savr tomato in an Egyptian study was found to cause stomach ulcers. The GM potatoes did not cause ulcerative damage.

Arpad Pusztai commented after the conference on other known and possible growth factors. He said that most lectins that bind to the gut surface will induce proliferative growth, particularly in the small intestine. The best and most studied example is the kidney bean lectin. However, all bacterial protein toxins, including cholera, E. coli, AND the Bt toxin [that we are expected to swallow in many GM crops], are AB type toxins in which A part is the toxin while the B part is a lectin. These toxins are only harmful to those animal species whose gut lining binds these lectins. [Do we know whether the Bt toxin expressed in GM foods is a growth factor? No, since it seems that nobody is trying to find out.]

"It is unfortunate that very few animal trials of GM human food are available in the public domain in scientific literature. It follows that GM foods have not been shown to be without risk and, indeed, the available scientific experimental results demonstrate cause for concern." - Prof Stanley Ewen
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