Dr Arpad Pusztai
May 18. 1999
The Royal Society (RS) have updated their report on GM-food of September 1998. They have peer-reviewed the nutritional and immunology data on GM-potato work carried out at the Rowett Research Institute (Rowett) between 1995 & 1998. The data reviewed were the Rowett Audit Report and my reply to it (Alternative Report; an internal document not meant for publication) which were put on the Internet by the Rowett, the latter without my consent jeopardising the publication of the data in a peer-reviewed journal.
None of the data in the RS enquiry has been forwarded by me. These data have already been peer-reviewed by a Rowett Audit Committee and thereafter by 20 senior scientists who found them to be of a standard acceptable for scientific publication and signed and released a Memorandum to that effect early in 1999. Accordingly, the results of this new enquiry by the RRS without new scientific input are likely to be of limited value.
I had offered the RS in a letter of 19th March my fullest cooperation. I indicated I would be happy to interact with the RS Working Group both verbally and in writing, provide them in confidence a copy of my updated final report incorporating the results of the independent statistical analysis of our data which was deposited with the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on 2nd March 1999 and discuss with them our interpretation of the data and our conclusions.
Unfortunately, the RS felt that speed was of the essence and did not accept my offer of cooperation. It was their view that my role should be limited to making comments on the reports of the six unnamed referees appointed by them. Thus, although the RS was fully aware that a more up to date report could shortly be made available, they still proceeded with a third peer-reviewing of the data in the two reports.
Having asked for my comments by noon on 13th May, the RS forwarded to me 3 reports on the 8th May, 2 on the 10th May and the final one on 11th May, with a rewritten version on 13th May allowing me 35 minutes to reply to this last one. As in my opinion the standard of most of the refereeing was not up to that expected from referees of international journals probably because of the undue haste and the referees’ unfamiliarity with the type of nutritional work carried out by us, commenting on them would have taken much longer than the allowed time. I felt therefore that under the circumstances it would be inappropriate and unwise to attempt to make any valued judgements.
I feel considerable sadness that we have all missed a great opportunity to find ways to move forward on this important issue. It is my belief that most people find tampering with the genetic make up of our basic foodstuffs a cause for concern given the perceived lack of proper and exhaustive biological testing. It is essential that GM-foods are made as safe as can be, and I reiterate my concerns about the lack of stringency in their testing at present.