SCOTTISH SCIENCE FESTIVAL BANS EXPERT OVER 'THICK ACCENT'
Here are the meeting details to which the following article makes reference
- Pusztai vs. Trewavas - should be excellent!
PUBLIC MEETING - Organised by the McCarrison Society, Scottish Group
G M Foods - Right or Wrong?
Dr Arpad Pusztai, FRSE
Previously a researcher at the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen
Professor Anthony Trewavas, FRS, FRSE , Professor of Plant Biochemistry,
University of Edinburgh
on Saturday 31st March 3.30 - 5.30 pm
Royal Botanic Garden Lecture Theatre, Inverleith Row, Edinburgh
Each speaker will talk for half an hour. They will then answer questions during an open discussion.
Admission - £2.00 Students With Cards - Free
Enquiries : Tom Stockdale 21 Castle Douglas Road, Dumfries, DG2 7PA
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FESTIVAL BANS EXPERT OVER 'THICK ACCENT'
by David Montgomery - Science Correspondent, The Scotsman - February 28, 2001
A CONTROVERSIAL scientist who was asked to take part in this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival yesterday criticised the event's organisers for later withdrawing his invitation because of concerns over his "thick accent" and gruff presentational style.
Dr Arpad Pusztai was due to give a lecture on the nutritional and health
aspects of genetically modified foods at the festival in April. But after
accepting the invitation he was later rejected by the event's planning
committee - the first speaker ever to suffer such a blackballing - because
he wasn't a "terribly good communicator" and because of concerns over his research.
Three years ago, Dr Pusztai, a former scientist at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, claimed that lab rats fed on GM potatoes had developed weak immune systems. The reaction across the country was little short of hysterical and he was sacked after his superiors pronounced the study misleading.
However, Dr Pusztai, a regular speaker at international conferences who yesterday returned to his Aberdeen home from a seminar on globalisation in New York, accused the festival organisers of stifling debate on the subject and failing to act in the best interests of the public. The Hungarian-born scientist said that to argue that his heavy accent would make it impossible for audiences to understand him was ridiculous.
He said: "It is very hurtful that people can say things like that about
me and my research. I
do realise that I have an accent and I have never tried to hide it. "But I have trained scientists, given university and public lectures, and never had any complaints. People have always understood me."
Dr Pusztai, 71, said the second concern - that his research was unsound and unpublished - was also invalid. He said a paper appeared in the Lancet last October and a number of other scientists backed his work. Barring him from the festival would lead to debate on GM foods being stifled, he claimed, and was an attempt to deny there were problems. "Debate is in the interests of scientific and public education," he said. "I thought that was the main purpose of the festival. Based on this decision, I don't think they are achieving that."
Dr Pusztai will now take part in a debate "GM foods - right or wrong?"
being organised by the McCarrison Society at the Royal Botanic Garden in
Edinburgh for 31 March. The society, which initially proposed Dr Pusztai
as a potential speaker to the festival organisers, was also critical of
the decision to reject the scientist.
Its chairman, Tom Stockdale, said: "For a science festival to succeed, it requires to involve controversial speakers who draw attention to anomalies that they have observed."
Simon Cage, the director of the Science Festival, said the scientist
had been invited in error and when the mistake was realised, it was corrected.
He said the change of heart was made in good time and they went to great
lengths to explain why Dr Pusztai was not the right choice for the
event. Mr Cage said the issue of poor communication skills was a minor point. He said: "The crucial thing was we did not believe the science he has done was solid. Dr Pusztai made claims that caused a lot of concern among the scientific community about the possible ill-effects of GM
foods. That work has never been substantiated in our view.
"Whether GM foods are safe or not is absolutely what the festival is
about but we want people to discuss it who have investigated it in a more