Discredited scientist hits back at critics
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Saturday 12 June 1999
He plans to release on the Internet this weekend the confidential reports of the six anonymous referees who were commissioned by the Royal Society to assess his work on rats fed GM potatoes.
The public, he said, will be able to make up their own minds on the Royal Society's conclusions damning his work, which were based on the reports of the six referees.
Dr Pusztai, a former scientist from the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, claimed in a television interview last year that the potatoes stunted the rats' growth and damaged their immune systems. A panel of named experts drawn together by the Royal Society said on the basis of the six anonymous reviews that Dr Pusztai's work was fundamentally flawed and that no meaningful conclusions could be made.
Dr Pusztai was in effect discredited and further humiliated by Sir Robert May, the government's chief scientist, who in a radio interview described his work on GM potatoes as "garbage".
Dr Pusztai said yesterday he views the Royal Society investigation as a "kangaroo court" that failed to look at all the evidence he gathered on the GM potato experiments. "I'd very much like to know the names of these referees. I don't regard them as my peers unless I know who they are," Dr Pusztai said. "I've published 276 scientific papers. I know exactly what I'm talking about because I've refereed scientific papers all my life. I don't think the Royal Society has a leg to stand on."
Dr Pusztai said he has submitted a research paper on the GM potato experiment to a scientific journal but he has not as yet heard whether it will be published. He said that if he cannot publish the research in Britain, he will attempt to have it published in the United States where the climate was "less biased" against him.
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