GM-ACT: Pusztai versus Trewavas

Anyone living in Edinburgh has the opportunity to attend, what should be, a most interesting debate. "Dr Pusztai will take the platform alongside GM food promoter Prof Tony Trewavas on March 31 at Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden."

May the best man win!


Aberdeen Press and Journal March 12, 2001

Festival ban fails to stop lecture by GM critic

By Linda Summerhayes

The Aberdeen scientist at the centre of a row over the effects of genetically-modified food will hold a public lecture after a bid to silence him. Arpad Pusztai was invited to give a lecture at the Edinburgh Science Festival but organisers backed out saying his research was "unsound", his accent "too thick", and he looked "gruff".

Dr Pusztai's GBP 1.6million research into the safety of GM food came under fire three years ago when he concluded that modified potatoes caused damage to rats' immune systems. He was later suspended from Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute after he sparked a national debate when he aired his views on a TV documentary criticising GM technology. Dr Pusztai, 71, believes that more research needs to be done into the effects of GM food and that testing needs to be done in laboratories rather than on human consumers. He was due to give a lecture at the popular science festival in Edinburgh at the start of next month before organisers suddenly changed their minds.

They said they had concerns about Hungarian-born Dr Pusztai's communication skills - despite the fact that he has been living in Britain since 1956. Dr Pusztai was invited to speak by the McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health which usually sponsors a speaker at the science event. Society chairman Thomas Stockdale, who accepted Dr Pusztai's nomination, said he was disappointed by the festival's attitude to minority views. He said lessons should be learned from the BSE crisis, when scientists were ridiculed for saying the disease would be detrimental to human health. Mr Stockdale said festival organiser Tracey Foster originally said they would be delighted to accept Dr Pusztai's presentation. But the society later received a letter highlighting concerns about Dr Pusztai's lecture.

"The first concern they raised was Dr Pusztai's high-profile research of the possible heath risks associated with GM foods and that the study was poorly presented and the results inaccurate," said Mr Stockdale, adding that the festival organisers' position on this was "highly debatable". He added: "Then they gave another reason in which they said Dr Pusztai was not a particularly good communicator and that he had a gruff style and his accent was too thick."

Dr Pusztai has given 100 lectures all over the world in the last two years and has just returned from giving evidence at a New Zealand Royal Commission into GM foods.
The McCarrison Society has organised an alternative venue outwith the festival to allow Dr Pusztai to debate with a supporter of GM foods. Dr Pusztai said: "To try and
suppress one point of view is not going to further science and not going to improve the image of science or scientists.
"If the Edinburgh Science Festival organisers want to have an honest, translucent and open debate - then people should see what they mean by that."

He said the organisers had drawn more attention to his views by cancelling his talk. Dr Pusztai will take the platform alongside GM food promoter Prof Tony Trewavas on March 31 at Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden.