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December 18, 2000


Response to Pusztai and apology


Response to Pusztai and apology

Arpad Pusztai Wrote:

>Obviously Dr Morton regards himself an authority on everything
>concerning GM crops and food.

No I don't consider myself an expert on everything in this field and I am
happy to admit when I am wrong.
Where do I admit I was wrong? - read on.

>This makes a total of FOUR PEER-REVIEWED animal study papers. It is
>somewhat different from the 56 claimed. Even when one considers the 6
>not truly relevant compositional papers the grand total comes to 10. I
>am afraid, if Morton is a true scientist he should know that the other 46
>so-called papers making up the rest and the bulk of his "bibliography"
>would not be considered by anyone as proper peer-reviewed scientific

First I must apologize for the duplicate references in the bibliography I
supplied in my earlier response. This is my mistake as this bibliography
was an amalgamation of two separate bibliographies I had collected recently
on GM foods. I failed to check the amalgamated bibliography for duplicates.
At the end of this document you will find a correct version of the
bibliology - it now only numbers 53 references.

I was incorrect to claim that the majority of the 56 papers in the
bibliography report experimental results. The point I was trying to make
was that the claim that there is NO testing of GM foods is false. That is
what some versions of the "myths" documents that I have read claim. On a
closer reading of this particular 'Myth" document I now realize the claim
is that there are not very many papers with actual experimental data. I
still dispute this - but I guess it depends on what you call many.

I come up with 12 are publications in peer-reviewed journals that
definitely report experimental data to back up their results - a little
different to Pusztai's figure of 4. Another 8 of them are abstracts to
meetings where it would appear from the title the authors are reporting
experimental results. Presenting data at a meeting is a form of peer
review. When one considers how few GM crops are in the market place I
think 20 publications with actual data is quite substantial. It seems to me
that these publications cover the GM technologies that are in use
commercially at the moment.

>Rather interestingly, Domingo never said
>that GM was good, bad or indifferent, he just pleaded with the companies
>and scientists to publish their papers on this so important topic in
>peer-reviewed journals.

Unfortunately I have not seen the Domingo letter because the myths document
I was commenting on did not supply a reference.
I am sure many researchers would love to publish their data in peer
reviewed journals. The lack of publication in a peer reviewed journal does
not mean that testing has not been done. As many people will know,
publishing results of experiments where there is no difference between the
treatments is very difficult - mainly because there is not a Journal of
Boring Results. Thus, many of the studies become fodder for meeting
abstracts and never get published in peer reviewed journals. The results
of these un-published studies are however scrutinized by the regulatory
authorities when applications for commercial release are processed, and are
in this sense peer reviewed.

I agree that it would be good to get these studies published and in the
public domain. I think there is a new journal coming out Journal of
Biosafety Research which might help this problem.

The point of the rest of the bibliography is to show that the problem of
the safety of GM foods has been considered by a large group of diverse
organizations - many of which do not have a direct financial interest in GM
foods. The consensus of these independent reviews of the data is that there
is nothing about the making of GM crops that makes them inherently more
dangerous than crops produced by conventional breeding.

Re: his pea paper, Pusztai comments:
>This shows the importance of
>case-by-case animal testing

Dr Pusztai and I appear to be in agreement that GM foods need to be
considered on a case by case basis - something that activists quoting Dr
Pusztai's work will never mention. I have mentioned Dr Pusztai's other
data to make the point that not all GM food is the same. Whether or not
snowdrop lectin potatoes really are toxic is irrelevant to the discussion
as to whether the GM food on the market is safe or not. As Dr Pusztai would
agree, each GM food must be considered on its merits. It is quite possible
to make toxic food by GM techniques just as it is possible to make toxic
food by conventional breeding. No one can guarantee any food produced by
any means is 100% safe. **The myth is that scientists claim that GM food is
100% safe**. What they claim is that the GM food that is ON THE MARKET to
consumers is AS SAFE as conventionally bred food because it has undergone
safety and risk assessment procedures.

The evidence for this is available in the literature and suggestions from
activists that it is not are false. Once this is pointed out, activists
fall back to the claim that "no independent tests" have been done. They
claim that the tests are done in labs funded by the multinational companies
which own the GM crops.

The implicit claim in this position is that these labs are fraudulently
producing results showing the food is safe when in fact it is unsafe. When
asked to produce evidence of this fraud they fall silent. When then asked
who should fund the independent tests? - taxpayers or subscribers to
greenpeace perhaps - they fall silent. The truth is that GM foods undergo
the best safety testing that is feasible and that they are held to greater
scrutiny than food previously available to the public.

>3. Finally, I want to quote the last two sentences from our paper,
>without any further comment, that somehow escaped Morton's attention:
>"However, this nutritional study with transgenic peas expressing
>alpha-amylase inhibitor cannot at this stage be taken as proof that
>transgenic peas are fit for human consumption. This may be established
>only with the use of further and more specific risk assessment testing
>procedures, which must be designed and developed with human consumers in

These sentences have not escaped my attention and I would agree which these

>Moreover, there is a general message here too:
>the scientist must report his findings as he finds them and not what

>he/she thinks that he/she ought to have found.

But while I have Dr Pusztai's attention, and in light of his admonition
above, I would like to ask him why his paper has the title "Expression of
insecticidal bean a-amylase inhibitor transgene has **minimal detrimental
effect** on the nutritional value of peas in the rat at 30% of the diet"
when, from reading the paper, I am unable to see any detrimental effect on
the rats of the GM peas even at levels of 65% dietary inclusion when
compared to non-GM peas at the same level of dietary inclusion?

The discussion says:
"When peas supplied all of the dietary protein, there were no significant
differences between the two peas groups, except for a slightly but
significantly higher fecal N excretion and lower body water in rats given
transgenic peas".
For the record the transgenic peas gave 12% higher fecal N excretion and 4%
lower body water and the statistical significance test used 5% as the
cutoff. 11 parameters were measured on the rats.
I hardly see how these differences can be interpreted as detrimental and in
the paper (with the exception of the title) you make no claim that these
differences are detrimental. So where is the detrimental effect of the
transgenic peas implied in the title?

Why doesn't the paper have a title saying "Expression of insecticidal bean
a-amylase inhibitor transgene has *no detectable* detrimental effect on the
nutritional value of peas in the rat at 65% of the diet"? Did Dr Pusztai
forget that "the scientist must report his findings as he finds them and
not what he/she thinks that he/she ought to have found."

>There is one more comment that relates to our GM potato work. Morton
>says that these potatoes were not in the process of commercialization
>and have not been continued with. I am afraid, he is wrong.
> The potatoes which we used as a model of GM food in our studies had been
>developed by an English biotech company, Cambridge Agricultural
>Genetics, later called Axis Genetics. They had been field-grown at
>Rothamstead and were very much to be commercialized.
> In fact, the Rowett and Axis Genetics had already drawn up a
profit-sharing agreement
>for this commercialization. True, this was not continued with.

Perhaps it is wrong to claim that these potatoes were not in the process of
commercialization but I guess it depends on how you define
commercialization. What I mean by commercialization is - release to the
farmer/public is imminent. Were these potatoes even close to being made
available to the public? Having a patent and a commercial agreement to
pursue research on something does not mean something is close to being made
available to the public. These days commercial agreements get drawn up
before the first bit of science is even done. Had an application been made
to any authorities to get approval for a general release? Would such an
application have succeeded?

The answer to this last question is almost certainly no. Not until these
potatoes were to be subjected to a proper safety assessment including
animal feeding studies. Something that they will never get now thanks to Dr
Pusztai's premature comments to the media.

If the situation was as bad as activists would have us believe, then we
would now be eating these potatoes because big business would have
corrupted the system.

Also while I have Dr Pusztai's attention I would like to ask him about
comments he has reportedly made concerning the 35S promoter. It has been
reported in various venues by activists that you claim that one possible
reason that the transgenic potatoes behaved differently to non-transgenic
potatoes spiked with transgene product was due to the influence of the
viral 35S promoter in the transgenic potatoes. First, is it true you hold
to this hypothesis? and second if you do, how does this fit with the fact
that the transgenic peas - where you found, no detrimental effect - also
contain the 35S promoter?

Corrected Bibliography - with some excerpts from Abstracts indicating
papers where data has definitely been collected.

1. Brake, J. and D. Vlachos. 1998. Evaluation of event 176 "Bt" corn in
broiler chickens. J. Poultry Sci. 77:648-653.
A 38-d feeding study evaluated whether standard broiler diets prepared with
transgenic Event 176-derived "Bt" corn (maize) grain had any adverse
effects on male or female broiler chickens as compared to diets prepared
with nontransgenic (isogenic) control corn grain. No statistically
significant differences in survival or BW were observed between birds
reared on mash or pelleted diets prepared with transgenic corn and similar
diets prepared using control corn.

2. Pusztai A, Grant G, Bard█cz S, Alonso R, Chrispeels MJ, Schroeder HE,
Tabe LM, Higgins TJV (1999) Expression of insecticidal bean a-amylase
inhibitor transgene has minimal detrimental effect on the nutritional value
of peas in the rat at 30% of the diet. J Nutr 129:1597-1603.
The effect of expression of bean alpha-amylase inhibitor (alpha-AI)
transgene on the nutritional value of peas has been evaluated by
pair-feeding rats diets containing transgenic or parent peas at 300 and 650
g/kg, respectively, and at 150 g protein/kg diet, supplemented with
essential amino acids to target requirements
3. {Hammond, Vicini, et al. 1996 3399 /id}Hammond, B., J. Vicini, G.
Hartnell, M.W. Naylor, C.D. Knight, E. Robinson, R. L. Fuchs, and S.R.
Padgetteet al. 1996. The feeding value of soybeans fed to rats, chickens,
catfish and dairy cattle is not altered by genetic incorporation of
glyphosate tolerance. J. Nutr. 126: 717-727.
Animal feeding studies were conducted with rats, broiler chickens, catfish
and dairy cows as part of a safety assessment program for a soybean variety
genetically modified to tolerate in-season application of glyphosate. These
studies were designed to compare the feeding value (wholesomeness) of two
lines of glyphosate-tolerant soybeans (GTS) to the feeding value of the
parental cultivar from which they were derived.
4. Padgette, S., N. Taylor, D. Nider, et al. 1996. The composition of
glyphosate-tolerant soybean seed is equivalent to that of conventional
soybeans. J. Nutr. 126: 702-716.
The composition of seeds and selected processing fractions from two GTS
lines, designated 40-3-2 and 61-67-1, was compared with that of the
parental soybean cultivar, A5403. Nutrients measured in the soybean seeds
included macronutrients by proximate analyses (protein, fat, fiber, ash,
carbohydrates), amino acids and fatty acids. Antinutrients measured in
either the seed or toasted meal were trypsin inhibitor, lectins,
isoflavones, stachyose, raffinose and phytate. Proximate analyses were also
performed on batches of defatted toasted meal, defatted nontoasted meal,
protein isolate, and protein concentrate prepared from GTS and control
soybean seeds. In addition, refined, bleached, deodorized oil was made,
along with crude soybean lecithin, from GTS and control soybeans. The
analytical results demonstrated the GTS lines are equivalent to the
parental, conventional soybean cultivar
5. Sidhu, R.S., B.G. Hammond, R.L. Fuchs, J.N. Mutz, L.R. Holden, B. George
and T. Olson. 2000. Glyphosate-Tolerant Corn: The Composition and Feeding
Value of Grain from Glyphosate-Tolerant Corn is Equivalent to That of
Conventional Corn (Zea Mays L.). J. Agric. Food Chem. 48:2305-2312.

The nutritional safety of corn line GA21 was evaluated in a poultry
feeding study conducted with 2-day old, rapidly growing broiler chickens,
at a dietary concentration of 50-60% w/w. Results from the poultry feeding
study showed that there were no differences in growth, feed efficiency,
adjusted feed efficiency, and fat pad weights between chickens fed with
GA21 grain or with parental control grain.

6. Characterization of phospholipids from glyphosate-tolerant soybeans
List, G. R.; Orthoefer, F.; Taylor, N.; Nelsen, T.; Abidi, S. L. (Food
Quality and Safety Research, NCAUR, USDA, ARS, Peoria, IL, 61604, USA). J.
Am. Oil Chem. Soc., 76(1), 57-60 1999
The phospholipids from 3 control and 2 glyphosate-tolerant soyabean
cultivars were isolated by extraction of soya flakes with hexane and
characterised after separation by HPLC. Several lots of commercial fluid
lecithin were also analysed and the results were compared with values
published in the literature. Phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine,
phosphatidylinositol and phosphatidic acid were identified as major
components in these cultivars and in the commercial lecithin samples. The
results showed that glyphosate-tolerant soyabeans yield lecithin comparable
and equivalent to conventional soyabean cultivars

7. Compositional Analysis of Glyphosate -Tolerant Soybeans Treated with
Glyphosate Taylor, Nancy B.; Fuchs, Roy L.; MacDonald, John; Shariff, Ahmed
R.; Padgette, Stephen R. (Monsanto Company, St. Louis, MO, 63198, USA). J.
Agric. Food Chem., 47(10), 4469-4473 1999
The composition of the seed from soybeans sprayed with glyphosate was
compared to that of a nonsprayed parental control cultivar, A5403. The
nutrients measured in the seed included protein, oil, ash, fiber,
carbohydrates, and amino acids. The concentration of isoflavones (also
referred to as phytoestrogens) was also measured as these compounds are
derived from the same biochemical pathway that was engineered for
glyphosate tolerance. The analytical results from these studies demonstrate
that the GTS soybeans treated with glyphosate were comparable to the
parental soybean cultivar, A5403, and other conventional soybean varieties
8. Harrison, L.A., M.R. Bailey, M. Naylor, J. Ream, B. Hammond, D.L. Nida,
B. Burnette, T.E. Nickson, T. Mitsky, M.L. Taylor, R.L. Fuchs and S.R.
Padgette. 1996. The Expressed Protein in Glyphosate-tolerance Soybean,
5-Enolpryruvyl-shikimate-3-phosphate Synthase from Agrobacterium sp. Strain
CP4, is Rapidly Digested in vitro and is not Toxic to Acutely Gavaged Mice.
J. Nutrition 126:728-740.
There were no deleterious effects due to the acute administration of CP4
EPSPS to mice by gavage at a high dosage of 572 mg/kg body wt, which
exceeds 1000-fold tha anticipated consumption level of food products
potentially containing CP4 EPSPS protein.
9. Assessment of the endogenous allergens in glyphosate -tolerant and
commercial soybean varieties Burks, A. W.; Fuchs, R. L.. Arkansas
Children's Hospital, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little
Rock, AR 72202, USA.. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (1995)
Vol. 96, No. 6, 1, pp. 1008-1010
10. Berberich S.A., J.E. Ream, T.L. Jackson, R. Wood, R. Stipanovic, P.
Harvey, S. Patzer, and R.L. Fuchs. 1996. Safety Assessment of
Insect-Protected Cotton: The Composition of the Cottonseed is Equivalent to
Conventional Cottonseed. J. Agric. Food Chem. 41:365-371.

A comparison was made of the nutrient and antinutrient levels in the seed
both to the parental variety and to published values for other commercial
cotton varieties, as part of the safety and product assessment of these
lines. Compositional equivalence confirmed the appropriateness of these
cotton lines (531, 757 and 1076) for use in food and feed products. The
insect-protected lines and the parental control were shown to contain
levels of nutrients comparable to those of other commercial varieties. The
levels of the antinutrients gossypol, cyclopropenoid fatty acids and
aflatoxin in the seed from the insect-protected lines were similar to or
lower than the levels present in the parental variety and reported for
other commercial varieties.
11. Nida, D.L., S. Patzer, P. Harvey, R. Stipanovic, R. Wood and R.L.
Fuchs. 1996. Glyphosate-tolerant Cotton: The Composition of the Cottonseed
is Equivalent to Conventional Cottonseed. J. Agric. Food Chem. 44:1967-1974.
The composition of the cottonseed and oil from two glyphosate-tolerant
lines, 1445 and 1698, was compared to that of the untransformed Coker 312
and to published values for other commercial cotton varieties. The
nutrients measured were protein, fat, fibre, carbohydrate, calories,
moisture, ash, amino acids, and fatty acids. The antinutrients measured
included gossypol, cyclopropenoid fatty acids, and aflatoxins. In addition,
the fatty acid profile and alpha -tocopherol levels were measured in the
refined oil. These analyses demonstrated that the glyphosate-tolerant
cotton lines are compositionally equivalent to the parental and
conventional cotton varieties commercially available
12. Reed, A.J., K.A. Kretzmer, M.W. Naylor, R.F. Finn, K.M. Magin, B.G.
Hammond, R.M. Leimgruber, S.G. Rogers and R.L. Fuchs. 1996. A Safety
Assessment of 1-Aminocyclopropane-1-Carboxylic Acid Deaminase (ACCd)
Protein Expressed in Delayed Ripening Tomatoes. J. Agric. Food Chem.
Tomato plants with delayed fruit ripening have been produced by stable
insertion of the gene encoding the 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid
deaminase (ACCd) protein into the tomato chromosome. Two approaches were
used to assess the safety of the ACCd protein for human consumption.
Purified Escherichia coli-produced ACCd protein, which is chemically and
functionally equivalent to the ACCd protein produced in delayed ripening
tomato fruit, was used in these studies. First, the ACCd protein was
readily degraded under simulated mammalian digestive conditions. Second,
the ACCd protein did not have any deleterious effects when administered to
mice by acute gavage at a dosage of up to 602 mg/kg of bodyweight. This
dosage correlates to greater than a 5000-fold safety factor relative to the
average daily consumption of tomatoes, assuming that all tomatoes consumed
contain the ACCd protein. These results in conjunction with previously
published data, established that ingestion of tomato fruit expressing the
ACCd protein does not pose any safety concerns
13. Biotechnology and the soybean. Rogers, Stephen G. (Monsanto, Brussels,
Belg.). Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 68(6, Suppl.), 1330S-1332S 1998

14. Daenicke, R., D. Gadeken and K. Aulrich. 1999. Einsatz von Silomais
herkF6mmlicher Sorten und der gentechnisch verE4nderten Bt Hybriden in der
Rinderfhtterung - Mastrinder -. 12, Maiskolloquium. 40-42.

15. Aulrich, K., I. Halle and G. Flachowsky. 1998. Inhaltsstoffe und
Verdaulichkeit von MaiskF6rnen der Sorte Cesar und der gentechnisch
verE4nderten Bt-hybride bei Legenhennen. Proc Einfluss von Erzeugung und
Verarbeitung auf die QualitE4t laudwirtschaftlicher Produkte. 465-468.

16. Faust, M. 1998. Determining feeding related characteristics for Bt
corn. 1998 Dairy Report. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

17. Faust, M. and L. Miller. 1997. Study finds no Bt in milk. IC-478. Fall
Special Livestock Edition. pp 6-7. Iowa State University Extension, Ames,

18. Faust, M. 1999. Research update on Bt corn silage. Four State Applied
Nutrition and Management Conference. MWPS-4SD5. 158-164.

19. Folmer, J.D., G.E. Erickson, C.T. Milton, T.J. Klopfenstein and J.F.
Beck. 2000. Utilization of Bt corn residue and corn silage for growing beef
steers. Abstract 271 presented at the Midwestern Section ASAS and Midwest
Branch ADSA 2000 Meeting, Des Moines, IA.

20. Folmer, J.D., R.J. Grant, C.T. Milton and J.F. Beck. 2000. Effect of
Bt corn silage on short-term lactational performance and ruminal
fermentation in dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 83 (5):1182 Abstract 272.

21. Halle, I., K. Aulrich and G. Flachowsky. 1998. Einsatz von MaiskF6rnen
der Sorte Cesar und des gentechnisch verE4nderten Bt-Hybriden in der
Broiler mast. Proc. 5. Tagung, Schweine- und GeflhgelernE4hrung,
01,-03.12.1998, Wittenberg p 265-267.
22. Russell, J. and T. Peterson. 1999. Bt corn and non-Bt corn crop
residues equal in grazing value. Extension News, June 30, 1999. Iowa State
University Extension, Ames.
23. Russell, J.R., M.J. Hersom, A. Pugh, K. Barrett and D. Farnham. 2000.
Effects of grazingcrop residues from bt-corn hybrids on the performance of
gestating beef cows. Abstract244 presented at the Midwestern Section ASAS
and Midwest Branch ADSA 2000 Meeting, Des Moines, IA.

24. Russell, J.R., D. Farnham, R.K. Berryman, M.J. Hersom, A. Pugh and K.
Barrett. 2000. Nutritive value of the crop residues from bt-corn hybrids
and their effects on performance of grazing beef cows. 2000 Beef Research
Report -Iowa State University. p 56-61.

25. Assessment of the allergenic potential of foods derived from
genetically engineered plants: glyphosate tolerant soybean as a case study
Fuchs, R. L.; Eisenbrand, G. [EDITOR]; Aulepp, H. [EDITOR]; Dayan, A. D.
[EDITOR]; Elias, P. S. [EDITOR]; Grinow, W. [EDITOR]; Ring, J. [EDITOR];
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pp. 212-221. 38 ref Publisher: VCH Verlagsgesellschaft mbH. Weinheim. ISBN:

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Monsanto Company, St. Louis, MO 63198, USA. Meeting info.: Food safety
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OECD-sponsored workshop held on 12-15 September 1994, Oxford, UK ( 1996 )
pp. 61-70. 32 ref Publisher: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
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27. Herbicide tolerant soybeans: Why growers are adopting Roundup Ready
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52. Canadian Newswire Oct 25, 199920 Genetically Enhanced Foods are
Thoroughly Tested for Safety

53. Monsanto Company June 1998 Patricia R. Sanders, Thomas C. Lee, Mark E.
Groth, Jim D. Astwood, and Roy L. Fuchs Safety-Assessment Of
Insect-Protected Corn
Opinons expressed in this posting are personal and do not reflect the
position of my employer