Friday, February 1, 2013

The Audit Committee was established by the Director of the Rowett Research Institute in August 1998

The Audit Committee was established by the Director of the Rowett Research Institute in August 1998

The Audit Committee was established by the Director of the Rowett Research Institute in August 1998. Its remit was to determine whether statements made by or attributed to Dr Pusztai during a World in Action programme broadcast on the 10th August 1998 were justified on the basis of the experimental evidence available at that time and to report its findings to the Director. The Audit Committee met on the 21st August and reported shortly thereafter.
The relevant statements taken from a transcript of the World in Action programme prepared by Tellex Monitors Ltd were:

Andrew Brittain (Presenter): "Professor Pusztai's lab is at Scotland's Rowett Institute, one of the leading food research centres in Europe. Scientists here are trying to find out whether long-term consumption of GM foods may affect health. Their test, funded by the Scottish Office, is believed to be the only one of its kind.
Rats have fed two different kinds of genetically modified potato, which are not on sale and have never been eaten by humans. The rats ate them for more than 100 days, the human equivalent of 10 years."
Professor Arpad Pusztai: "The immune system takes about 10 days to get in top gear. So, if we do a short-term trial, we wouldn't have seen the end result."
Andrew Brittain: "Animals fed on one kind of research potato remained perfectly health. But rats given the other set did show ill-effects. The Professor is so concerned about the implications of his discovery, he's decided to publicise his findings early. Tonight, he reveals them for the first time."
Professor Arpad Pusztai: "The effect was slight growth retardation and an effect on the immune system. One of the genetically modified potatoes, after 110 days, made the rats less responsive to immune effects."

The three statements implicit in this exchange were: the completion of long-term experiments (110 days) made with two different kinds of GM potatoes, the retardation of growth and the reduced response to a challenge to the immune system. These three points were found by the Audit Committee to be untrue or not supported by the evidence. 

Report of Dr Pusztai

Dr Puszrtai was provided with a copy of the Audit report by the Director and was invited to respond. This he did in October 1998, commenting both on the conclusions of the Audit Committee and on the data from experiment D249, an experiment not started at the time of the recording of the World in Action programme and only completed after the Audit process. A copy of his response was sent to all members of the Audit Committee.

In his report Dr Pusztai takes issue with the Audit committee on three broad counts:
their comments on the analytical data;

  • their failure to take account of differences in organ weights in animals fed GM potatoes compared with parental controls;
  • their conclusion with respect to immune function.
  • Dr Pusztai also rejects the conclusion of the Audit Committee that the existing data (data available in August 1998) did not support any suggestion that the consumption by rats of transgenic potatoes expressing GNA has an effect on growth, organ development or immune function.

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