Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Modified rats smell too

I've thought and thought about food. Food crisis. Food prices. Ways of growing food. Intensive? Manual? Organic? What about access? Is it fair to push for organic when so many people are so short of food and why does everybody keep saying that organic farming techniques will bring down overall production? But what if they're right? But how will we know if we don't try the alternative?

All those questions, to which that latest, scariest addition is the question of GM food. Safe? No? How unsafe? Does it keep you alive? Does it warp your genes? Why isn't the government taking some sort of stand on it instead of saying one thing ("we don't let in anything until it's been proven safe") and doing another (allowing field trials, ignoring violations of trial procedures, ignoring research already conducted in other countries).

And though it happened way back in 2000, it was not until today that I read about how biologist Arpad Pusztai from the Rowett research Institute in Scotland was treated:

"The 69 year old Hungary-born Pusztai, who had been working at the RRI for 36 years, was removed from service, his research papers were seized, and his data confiscated ~ and he was prohibited from talking to anyone about his research work. All this for having spoken "all of l5O seconds," he says in a programme called World in Action on Granada TV in August 1998, about his findings on the effects of GM foods that ran counter to the prevalent scientific dogma that they were safe. He had also expressed concern that the testing procedures to establish the safety of GM foods may not be adequate.

Pusztai's controversial experiments, which he carried out in collaboration with his colleague Stanley W.B. Ewen, for over30 months between 1995 and 1998, comprised the use of GM potatoes expressing the gene for snowdrop lectin called Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA) as feed to rats. (Snowdrop is a small white flower that hangs from a bulb and blooms in spring; lectin is a protein normally obtained from plants that have antibody characteristics.) This, he found, resulted in impairment in the condition of the rats. This was a surprising finding for Pusztai, because in six years of work with the lectin itself; he had found no toxic effect when it was mixed with feed as a protein supplement. But when genetically expressed it showed health effects.

Even before his work was published, based on incomplete information and data, it was denounced at various levels, including the Royal Society and the Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology. Also, a campaign was unleashed in the media to discredit Pusztai. But it was a slap in the face of critics when Pusatai's paper got accepted for publication in The Lancet. This, in fact; prompted a senior biologist of the Royal Society to threaten The Lancet's editor with dire consequences.

You know what they say about smoke? It usually alerts you to a fire. And I personally am inclined to smell very large rats when people threaten editors with dire consequences.

You can read the whole piece here.


mistercrowley said...

Can't comment on warped genes...but GM food tastes like crap. Should be banned on that ground alone :)

rajiv said...

As we are a volunteer organization, we have volunteers coming from various fields and different villages as well as distant city’s. And as we organize seminars and send a lots of mailers, news letters as well as go out and teach how one can harvest water and how we can keep our rivers clean. Salesforce would equip us to be better organized at the same time increasing creative output.
For the first time since 8 years we have decided to utilize the web to set up a common site and use its to expand our reach and voice.
We are still in the process of setting up a website., but this is an import step forward but at the same time an unfamiliar area of enterprise. I am sure the web will make a big difference to our mission.
Organizational head

Interesting, but pusztai was discredited a few years back, no one ever discovered who the real caller was and as the results could not be repeated elsewhere one can safely put the conspiracy theory to rest.
That said, the threat from GM happens to come from elsewhere, as genes are largely environment conscious (protein alter their behavior to even simple temperature variations by epigenetic stitching) and trees are living intelligence and not stone relics (they even colonize), so it seems that the real danger then comes from the corporate hoax as an all time solution. Infact it can backfire as several journals report.
And for all the ho halla, It is soon turning out to be a scientific snake oil (yes you can have scientific snakeoils) as production have actually dropped in America who also happens to be its whole scale user.
This leaves us with the German petrochemical giants. Think about the devil and the deep blue sea. :)

rajiv said...

Oh the above "we are a volunteer organization" is an un-intended slip. (a simple copy and paste haste from another rough scribble of a story that presently exists as little fragments)
what I wanted to give a link to my story which deals with similar theme. "The family of earthworms" http://rajivmudgal.com/?page_id=82
I am really sorry for this mess.
please edit it away (It is quite embarrassing)

Annie said...

mistercrowley, i have not tasted gm food, so can't comment on how it tastes. at least, i hope i have not.
rajiv, i cannot edit comments. i can only delete them entirely. if you'd like to edit it, please post an edited version and delete the first comment.

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