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Food Safety & Security

January 20, 2009

Scientist Issues Genetic Food Warning

by Monique Beech

The only way consumers can protect their families and avoid potentially harmful so-called Frankenfoods is to buy directly from the grower, says a leading plant scientist.

 

The Guardian/uk)]Hungarian born biologist Arpad Pusztai, whose whistleblowing was largely responsible for sparking debate in the United Kingdom over genetically altered foods, which are most commonly soy beans, corn and potatoes. (photo: The Guardian/uk)

“The important thing in local communities is know the producer,” Arpad Pusztai told a crowd of about 30 people gathered to hear him speak about genetically modified food at the Niagara Artists’ Centre on St. Paul Street in St. Catharines Saturday afternoon. 

“You have to know where your food is coming from.”

There is widespread debate about the safety of food that is genetically modified food to improve such things as insect resistance or boost desired nutrients.

Pusztai, a leading plant expert, was dismissed from the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen Scotland after he went public with research on genetically modified potatoes in 1998.

The Hungarianborn biologist’s contentious research on rats found these potatoes caused several health problems, including a weakened immune system and abnormal growth.

His whistleblowing was largely responsible for sparking debate in the United Kingdom over genetically altered foods, which are most commonly soy beans, corn and potatoes.

Pusztai said virtually all testing done on GM products is being done by the biotechnological farm companies that are making the goods, and are not neutral. While these companies maintain GM products are safe, the results are never released, Pusztai said.

“They’re keeping the public in the dark,” said Pusztai, who was on a speaking tour of southern Ontario.

The technology to test the safety of GM products before they go to market exists, but it’s not being used, said Pusztai, who divides his time between Scotland and Hungary.

But Pusztai stands by his work and said he initially set out to prove genetically modified potatoes were a great idea.

Instead, he said he found the altered potatoes hurt the guts of test rats, and caused several other side effects, such as stunted growth.

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