Why was the potato doctor suspended ?

I have read the Report of the Committee that audited the data obtained by Dr. A. Pusztai and his colleagues regarding the effects of feeding potatoes that express the gene encoding GNA and examined the data supplied in the appendices [see links below]. I have also read the report prepared by Dr. Pusztai in which he analyzes these and other data supplied to the auditors, and I have read the transcript ot the World in Action TV program.

Allow me to say first that it is an excellent idea for scientists to participate in such programs, if for no other reason than to keep stating the facts, and try to counter the fear-mongers who are often more interested in broadcasting their opinions than in ferreting out the facts. Dr. Pusztai made the following statements in the program: (1) that the GM potatoes had a slight growth retardation effect, (2) that the rats were less immune responsive (2) that he wouldnt eat such potatoes unless further testing were done. He also stated his belief in genetic engineering as a valuable tool for crop improvement and reiterated the need for testing on animals. Basically, he sounded a cautionary note.

The voice of reason in what appears to me to be a relatively low-level discussion of the issues with plenty of scare-tactics and loaded terms. Although there was variation from experiment to experiment, Dr. Pusztai had enough evidence to support his conclusions that there was a slight retardation of growth caused by the GM potatoes (although the cause of this growth retardation was not known; was it caused by the product of the transgene or the altered compostion?) and that there were effects on the immune system. Dr. Pusztais long term studies on the effects of PHA on rats have shown that this particular dietary lectin can have detrimental effects on mammalian physiology, and the preliminary results he had obtained with GNA were obviously sufficient to induce him to sound a cautionary note in addressing the public at large.

The assertion that the immune system of the rats was affected was supported by a statiscal analysis of the data. It is also evident that protein fortification of the GNA-GM-potatoes was needed to sustain rat growth at control levels. Nevertheless, the data he had obtained at the time lacked completeness, and much work remains to be done, including the need to understand whether denatured GNA polypeptides in cooked potatoes (as we would normally eat them) have any detrimental effect.

Dr. Pusztai stressed the need for further tests. I am pleased to learn that subsequent experiments confirmed Dr. Pusztais statements about the possible adverse effects of this lectin in whole uncooked foods. Like PHA, variants of GNA are abundantly present in our diet and we are generally ignorant about their effects on the human body. Dr. Pusztai is to be commended for conducting these detailed experiments.

Sao Paulo The launching of the brand Cirio in Brazil the pastas, conserved goods, oil and tomato products produced by the Italian group Cragnotti officially set for Friday, in Sao Paulo, will cost Bombril-Cirio approximately $30 million.

Out of this total, $10 million were spent, from the beginning of the year up until now, in the development and planting of tomatoes, the segments of which are genetically engineered by the Italian company Cirio, with approximately 200 agricultural partners especially contracted in the states of Sao Paulo (Guaira complex) and in the interior regions of the states of Goias and Minas Gerais.