GM row scientists test new cancer treatment

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THE TWO scientists at the heart of the row over the safety of genetically modified food now claim they are developing a treatment for cancer.

THE TWO scientists at the heart of the row over the safety of genetically modified food now claim they are developing a treatment for cancer.

Dr Arpad Pusztai and Dr Stanley Ewen, whose paper suggesting that eating GM potatoes damaged rats' stomachs was published in The Lancet on Friday, are involved in a project at Bergen University in Norway which is looking into the possibility of treating cancer with a protein derived from mistletoe. The substance, lectin, is also used in genetic modification.

Dr Pusztai, who has published some 270 scientific papers, is acknowledged as the world's leading authority on lectins. The Bergen research is examining whether lectin from mistletoe will effectively attack tumours if fed orally to rats. Lectin is already injected to treat leukaemia in Germany.

The Roman historian Pliny, writing in the first century AD, noted that the Druids used mistletoe "to disperse tumours".

Dr Ewen said that the team had already published one paper on their work and was now in the middle of a new three-year study. Dr Pusztai was working on it, at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, when he was forced into retirement last year after briefly mentioning his work on GM foods on television, with the institute's permission.

Publication of the paper caused a row between The Lancet, the world's oldest medical journal, and the Royal Society, Britain's most august scientific institution.

A commentary by the journal's editor, Richard Horton, concluded: "Berating critics rather than engaging them ­ and criticising reports of research, as the Royal Society did with the Pusztai data, before those data were reviewed and published in the proper way ­ will only intensify public scepticism about science and scientists."

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