21 September 1998
Monsanto complains to TV watchdog over World in Action

By FWi staff

BIOTECH company Monsanto has filed an official complaint over a television programme which claimed consumers face potential health risks from genetically modified food.

The programme, Eat Up Your Genes, was made by Granadas World in Action team and shown last month.

The programme claimed that research showed GM potatoes fed to rats caused growth retardation and damage to their immune systems. The research was carried out by Dr Arpad Pusztai at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen.

Two days after the broadcast, Dr Pusztai was suspended from his job. The Rowett Institute said it regretted that “discussions with the media [had] led to the presentation of information which misled everyone concerned.”

It later emerged that the rats were not fed on GM potatoes but on conventional potatoes mixed with well-known toxin lectin.

Monsanto officials have written to the Broadcasting Standards Commission claiming that Granada breached the commissions Code of Guidance on Fairness and Privacy.

Colin Merritt, Monsantos UK technical director, said the TV programme had chosen to alarm, rather than inform, consumers.

World in Action sparked an unnecessary food scare about genetically modified food,” he said.

“It suggested that genetically modified foods had been rushed on to the market without adequate long-term testing. This is not the case and it was irresponsible to alarm viewers in this way.”

The Broadcasting Standards Commission has a target of replying to 90% of complaints regarding fairness within six to nine months.