GM peas are safe, sacked scientist says

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The Independent Online
ARPAD PUSZTAI, the scientist whose claims that genetically modified potatoes damaged laboratory rats prompted a huge political and scientific controversy, has concluded that GM peas are quite harmless.

In new research submitted to a scientific journal, Dr Pusztai found there was "no detrimental effect" on the health of rats fed on peas that had been genetically modified in a similar way to the potatoes.

The new findings cast doubt on the suggestion - made by Dr Pusztai and his supporters - that the rats in the potato experiment suffered as a result of eating GM food. The results support the view that the rats' ill health was due to eating raw potatoes, which are well known to be nutritionally poor.

Dr Pusztai was suspended and forced into retirement from the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen last August after a television interview, in which he claimed that rats fed GM potatoes had stunted internal organs and defective immune systems. But his latest research paper, submitted to the Journal of Nutrition in the US, observes that GM peas which contained an insecticidal agent derived from a bean plant had no discernible effect on laboratory animals. They also proved to be just as nutritious as ordinary peas.

Dr Pusztai did not mention the research when he appeared before the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons last Monday, when he told MPs that he had no regrets over the statements he made to the media about the dangers of GM food. He was also asked why he had suggested that the public were being used as guinea pigs to test the safety of GM food. He replied that it was because there had been so little research proving it was safe.

The Royal Society, Britain's most prestigious scientific institution, has launched an investigation into Dr Pusztai's work. The six leading specialists appointed as independent arbiters will report their conclusions next month.

t Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the Science minister, has ordered a review of the way the Government handles issues of public concern such as genetic engineering and cloning, it was announced yesterday.

There will be consultation and research into public knowledge and attitudes about science which could be used to inform policy-making.