Arpad Pusztai and the Risks of Genetic Engineering
By Ken Roseboro, ed.
The Organic and Non-GMO Report, June 2009
Arpad Pusztai was one of the first scientists to raise concerns about the safety of genetically modified foods. In the late 1990s, Pusztai, a respected molecular biologist, conducted research on GM potatoes for the Rowett Institute in Scotland. The potatoes were genetically altered to produce lectins, natural insecticides, to protect them against aphids. Pusztai conducted feeding studies on rats and found that the potatoes damaged the animals' gut, other organs, and immune system. In 1998, Pusztai expressed his concerns about GM foods on a British television program and was promptly suspended and forced to retire from his position. Dr. Pusztai's research was later peer reviewed and published in The Lancet, a leading British medical journal.
Q: You were initially supportive of genetically modified foods, is that correct?
Yes, I thought at the time on the basis of rather poor understanding of genetic modification that it was a good idea. As we progressed with our experimental work we found all the snags and I had to re-assess my ideas.
Q: What negative impacts did you find with GM potatoes you were developing?