ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

Dr Pusztai's repsonse to Bob MacGregor
Dr Pusztai's repsonse to Roger Morton

Dr Pusztai's repsonse to Bob MacGregor:

[Another AgBioView list subscriber, Bob MacGregor had raised questions about Dr Pusztai's GM pea study. MacGregor stated, "One point that Roger didn't mention has baffled me:  how can one leap to the conclusion that a difference -- even a statistically-significant one -- between intestinal weight with one variety versus another is evidence of harm?" MacGregor's message can be found in the Agbioview.list archive at: #951
and is repeated at #953]

You cannot have it both ways.  When regulation is based on substantial
equivalence, as it is, if a GM crop and its non-GM parent line are not
substantially equivalent then the GM line cannot be accepted on the
basis of the present regulations.  I have nothing to do with this aspect
of regulation and I am not going to say whether I think this is good or
bad.  However, one cannot pick and choose which of the regulations one
needs to obey!

The next question is, then, whether an established significant difference
has any biological meaning.  Here, obviously, personal judgment and
expertise will come in but, as a minimum, when a difference exists it
must be obligatory to follow it up and establish whether the difference
signifies any pathological etc. significance.

What you cannot do is to dismiss it just because in your opinion, and
based on a possibly incomplete or poor understanding of the topic, and/or
a lack of experience, you may think that it is of no importance.  There
used to be a word for this in the past, humility.  We may not know
everything and therefore one is under an obligation to ask for the
advice and help of experts before new experiments are designed and
carried out.

I am not going to speculate on the reasons why differences in the
weight, size and structure of the gastrointestinal tract were observed
in any particular instance because there are good and proper
experimental techniques to probe into these reasons and in most
instances such experimental work can give you precise, biochemical and
quantitative reasons for the underlying gut enlargement.  But I can
asure you that there are always good material reasons for this and even
if the "innate characteristics of the plant" change because of the gene
transfer, these methods can still be applied to clear up the problem.
Had we been given time we would have been able to nail down these
reasons, be it with our GM potatoes or GM peas.
To Roger Morton:
[ #950]

I think it is high time to close this debate because it is now getting
too personal.  I could, of course, say that Dr Morton should look at
Tables 2 & 4 (I am sure he actually did) and then politely ask me why I
thought that the real and significant differences in Tables 2 & 4 were
not shown by the results of Table 3.  Perhaps, I might have been able to
enlighten him. You see, when one wants to score points over one's
opponent in a debate, it shuts off the channels of communication.

Why does Dr Morton think that "no detectable detrimental effect" is
better than no detrimental effect, particularly if we may have detected
detrimental effects?  When the alpha-amylase inhibitor even partially
stops starch degradation in the small intestine, the extra load of
undigested starch accumulating in the enlarged caecum/large intestine
can have a detrimental effect.  In fact, it could kill the animal.  This
actually happened in our pre-study with alpha-amylase inhibitor (non-GM)
also published in Journal of Nutrition.  So you see, just like with
beauty, knowledge is also in the eye of the beholder.  Thorough
knowledge of one's topic is never a bad thing when it comes to
evaluating one's own experiments.

One cannot give a more frappant example of the potential problems due to
the personalizing of the debate.  When Dr Morton says that "I am not
sure that I believe you when you tell me Dr Higgins came up with this
title", does he think that apart from himself and possibly a few other similar
people, this business has any interest for anyone else?  Our initial
exchanges were to the point and pertinent to the GM debate.  I am
afraid, this has very little enlightement to offer to the general
interested reader.

For gut enlargement and its significance, see my reply to Dr MacGregor.

We are back again to our GM potatoes.  I said this before and I say it
again: we were the lab which had done the testing and produced the data
for the commercial company.  As referred to before, because of our work
the Rowett and Axis Genetics had already drawn up a commercial agreement
on profit sharing if and when the GNA potatoes went through the
regulatory approval process.

I am glad to see that even American lawyers see the holes in the USA
regulatory process.  In fact, there are no holes because since the
FLAVR-SAVR tomato study in 1992/93, there has been no compulsory
regulation.  In effect, up till now it has been self-regulation!

On the final point, Dr Morton ought to ponder a little when he dares me
to give him a plausible hypothesis to explain the results.  I have to
remind him why I was condemned by the scientific establishment in August
1998. It was, according to them, because I openly and without peer-review
revealed experimental details of our GM potato work.  Apart from tiny
little details, such as the fact that I did do no such thing, it just
shows the hypocrisy of the whole system.  Just take those 40 odd
articles Dr Morton quoted in his reference list which had never been
peer-reviewed but which still with great confidence asserted things
which, at best, could only be called opinions.  As they were favourable
to GM, they are alright.  I am not going to oblige him or anybody else
to crucify me for my views and opinions.  If we were friends and had a
confidential discussion over a pint of beer or a glass of some good
Australian wine I could expound on my views.  A lot of things have been
said about me but nobody tried to assert that I am stupid and by rising
to the bait I definitely would be.  On a more philosophical note,
personalized debates and using demolition charges to remove opponents
does not further the cause of science and honest scientific debate.

I am sure, we have had our space and time on the internet, we should
give others a chance too.

Arpad Pusztai