In honor of non-GMO month, folks from the Institute for Responsible Technology have shared a great film with us, Scientists Under Attack, and a lot of information to go with it.
The trailer to the film, as you can see, is above. And you can buy the film here (big discount on a 6-pack).
Here’s part of the intro from that page:
“When scientist Arpad Pusztai reported that genetically modified (GM) foods caused serious health problems in rats, he was a hero at his prestigious UK institute — for two days. But after two phone calls (apparently) from the Prime Minister’s office, he was fired, gagged, and mercilessly attacked.”
Very concerning. But it seems that huge corporations don’t only hold control over our politicians, but also over our independent scientists when it comes to some issues.
Rather than proceed with caution and wait until thorough examination of the effects of GMOs has been conducted, GMOs have been released on the American public and, actually, the whole world. We are the guinea pigs in this story, despite clear evidence (not followed up by anyone in the field after Pusztai was abruptly sacked) that there are some potentially devastating long-term effects of GMOs.
“As a scientist looking at it and actively working on the field, I find that it’s very, very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs.” – Arpad Pusztai
More on Pusztai from the Institute for Responsible Technology:
Pusztai was the world leader in his field, and he had received major government funding to come up with the official method for testing the safety of GM foods. His protocols were supposed to become the required tests before any new GMO entered the European market. Pusztai was an insider, and an advocate of GM foods—that is until he actually ran those tests on supposedly harmless GM potatoes.
The high-tech spuds were engineered to produce their own pesticide. “The point of the whole genetic modification experiment was to protect the potato against aphids, which are one of the major pests in Scotland,” he said. His team inserted a gene from the snowdrop plant into the potatoes, which did in fact protect the GM crop from the insects.
As part of his safety studies, he fed that insecticide producing GM potato to rats, along with a complete and balanced diet. Another group of rats ate natural potatoes. A third was fed not only the natural potatoes, but they also received a dose of the same insecticide that the GM potato produced. This way, if the insecticide was harmful, he would see the same health problems in both the group that ate the GM potatoes, and those that ate the diet spiked with the insecticide. To his surprise, only those that ate the GM potato had severe problems—in every organ and every system he looked at.
Massive health problems linked to GMOs
“After the animals were killed and dissected,” Pusztai recalled, “we found out that in comparison with the non-genetically modified potatoes, their internal organs developed differently.” The intestines and stomach lining, for example, increased in size, the liver and kidneys were smaller, and the overall rate of growth was retarded. And the immune system suffered. Pusztai emphasized, “They found in those data 36 – 36! – very highly significant differences between the GM-fed animals and the non-GM fed animals.”
Since the rats that ate the natural potatoes plus the insecticide did not have these issues, there was one obvious conclusion—the process of genetically engineering the potatoes caused unpredicted side effects, turning a harmless food into a dangerous one.
When Pusztai saw the extensive damage that his potatoes caused in the lab animals, he also realized that if biotech companies had done the safety studies, the dangerous potatoes would have easily made it to market. He knew this because a few months earlier, he had reviewed the confidential submissions from the biotech companies which allowed their GM soy and corn onto the market. “They were flimsy,” he said. “They were not scientifically well founded.” They would never detect the changes in GMO-fed animals.
Reading the industry studies was a turning point in Pusztai’s life. He realized what he was doing and what the industry scientists were doing was diametrically opposed. He was doing safety studies. Companies like Monsanto, on the other hand, were doing as little as possible to get their foods on the market as quickly as possible.
Pusztai also realized that the GM soy and corn already on the market had been produced using the same process that had created his dangerous potato. Thus, the GM crops being consumed in the UK and the US might lead to similar damage in the gut, brain and organs of the entire population.
Concerning? I certainly think so.
But the scientific findings are not the only scary thing. The way the industry, politicians, and Pusztai’s own university responded was shocking. And it is clear indication of the suppression of research taking place on this matter:
The quote bolded above was from an interview with Pusztai on the UK’s World in Action TV show. On the show, he also stated: “If I had the choice, I would certainly not eat [GM foods] until I see at least comparable experimental evidence which we are producing for genetically modified potatoes.”
Now, what followed was one of the top GMO scientists in the world being fired and not allowed to even talk to his friends.
After the TV show aired, Pusztai was a hero at his prestigious Rowett Institute, where the director praised his work to the press, calling it world-class research. After two days of high-profile media coverage throughout Europe, however, the director received two phone calls from the UK Prime Minister’s Office.
“It’s only when we think there was political pressure coming from the top that the situation changed,” said Pusztai. “And then the director, to save his own skin, decided that the best way to deal with the situation [was] A) to destroy me, B) to make me shut up.”
Pusztai was told the next morning that his contract would not be renewed, he was silenced with threats of a lawsuit, his team was disbanded, and the protocols were not to be implemented in GMO safety assessments. And then came the attacks.
Coordinated between the Institute, biotech academics, and even the pro-GMO UK government, a campaign to destroy Pusztai’s reputation was launched. They were determined to counter the negative media coverage and protect the reputation of GMOs—even if it meant promoting blatant lies and sacrificing a top scientist’s career. Because Pusztai was gagged, he said, “whatever they did say on TV, radio and wrote in the newspapers, I could not deny it, I could not correct it, I could not say what was the real situation.”
“The most hurtful thing of all,” remembers Pusztai’s wife Susan, “was that he wasn’t allowed to talk to his colleagues and his colleagues were not allowed to talk to him. So whenever he entered a room, they went silent within seconds.”
After seven excruciating months, a committee at the UK Parliament invited Pusztai to speak. This lifted the gag order, which allowed Pusztai to ultimately publish his research, and be interviewed for this film.
Now, if GMOs were so safe, and the GMO industry were so sure of that, it hardly seems the excessive measures to shut Pusztai up were needed. Or am I missing something more obvious than that?
Pusztai is not the only scientist who has been attacked in the field in such ridiculous ways. Scientists Under Attack goes into some of those other stories as well.
I have written on 13 scientific studies that found GMOs were linked to organ damage (back in April). Imagine how many more might have found such evidence if scientists were allowed to do their job.
Why haven’t you heard of Scientists Under Attack yet? Well, the film was released this year, on March 10. Yes, that’s the day before the humongous earthquake in Japan. Aside from the fact that the filmmakers do not have the budget of a Hollywood production company, I think this might have helped to keep it from going viral.
One more time, you can buy Scientists Under Attack here.