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GM spuds damage rats immune systems

10 August 1998
GM spuds damage rats’ immune systems

CONCERNS over genetically modified (GM) food have been raised again after researchers reported that GM potatoes can damage the immune systems of rats …more…

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GM spuds damage rats immune systems

10 August 1998
GM spuds damage rats’ immune systems

CONCERNS over genetically modified (GM) food have been raised again after researchers reported that GM potatoes can damage the immune systems of rats.

Professor Arpad Puzati, of the Rowett Research Institute in Arberdeen, will say on tonights World in Action programme on ITV that he will not eat GM crops until they have undergone exhaustive trials.

Prof Puzati, the man behind the discovery, said: “If I had the choice I would certainly not eat it until I see at least comparable experimental evidence.”

Researchers at the institute carried out trials on potatoes carrying genes from both the snowdrop and the jackbean.

The genes are responsible for producing proteins called lectins, which protect the parent plants from aphid and nematode attack. Potatoes resistant to these pests would be valuable.

But lectins are known to damage immune-system cells. No effect was noticed in the case of the snowdrop lectin, but the jackbean lectin did suppress the immune system.

The feeding trial went on for 110 days, equivalent to 10 years in human terms. The result, he said, emphasised the need for proper trials of all modified crops.

Mr Puzati said the snowdrop variety would only be released after further extensive trials, but the jackbean verison would never see the light of day. The potatoes were produced in a study funded by the Scottish Office of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said no genetically-modified potatoes had yet been approved for human consumption in the UK.

  • The Times 10/08/98 page 2

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