TJ Higgins - disingenuous or just dishonest? (20/11/2005)

1.Full paper on GM pea study
2.Harmful Effects of GM Food
3.Pusztai and Robinson on TJ Higgins' attack

The spin on the recent Australian study showing harmful effects in mice from consumption of GM peas was principally provided by the biotechnologist who developed the GM peas - T. J. Higgins.

Higgins' claims both that the study shows that the regulatory system is working and that "there isn't a single piece of evidence that [GM food's] any less safe than conventional food."

As to the former claim, Julie Newman of the Network of Concerned Farmers points out that, "Health testing is only done by the company that is wanting approval for release but luckily, CSIRO did these voluntary feeding tests. Why aren't these feeding tests compulsory?"

Dr Brian John calls the latter claim simply "a lie, typical of the lies pushed out by those who promote the interests of the GM industry". (item 2)

This is not the first time that such a charge has been laid against Dr Higgins. A letter commenting on Dr Arpad Pusztai's work which was sent by Higgins to the Australian press drew this comment from GM Watch editor, Claire Robsinson: "To put a charitable interpretation on Higgins' letter, he is being disingenuous. The uncharitable interpretation would be that he is being dishonest. His points are factually incorrect and have been countered many times in public arenas." (item 3)

1.Full paper on GM pea study

2.Harmful Effects of GM Food

Dear Sir

Harmful Effects of GM Food

In your piece entitled "Pea trial results spur anti-GM lobby" (The Age, 19 November) you quote CSIRO plant industry deputy director T. J. Higgins as saying this: ""People have been eating GM food for 10 years and there isn't a single piece of evidence that it's any less safe than conventional food." Not to put too fine a point on it, that is a lie, typical of the lies pushed out by those who promote the interests of the GM industry day after day, year after year.

I will not deny that some "conventional foods" are unsafe in certain respects, for people with known medical conditions or if consumed in large quantities outside the bounds of a well-balanced diet. The key question is this: Do GM foods introduce unnecessary and avoidable extra dangers to the public? And the answer is: Yes.

By any scientific definition of "harm" there is now abundant evidence of human beings and laboratory mammals and other animals being harmed by the consumption of GM food products. The 100 or more people who died as a result of consuming the GM food supplement L-Tryptophan were certainly harmed, as were the animals which died after being fed on the following GM products: Roundup Ready soya, Chardon LL maize, GM potatoes and tomatoes, maize line Bt176, and rBGH growth hormone.

Other damage to vital organs is well documented in animals fed on MON863 maize and in other GM soya varieties. Many GM varieties (including the flavr-savr tomato, Chardon LL maize, Starlink maize, soya spliced with brazil nut genes and the GM pea) have been withdrawn because of health and safety worries about allergic reactions and about other damage to the immune system. Concerns about the impact of antibiotic resistance marker genes in GM varieties are growing -- even within the notoriously complacent GM regulatory authorities.

A good deal of industry research revealing negative health effects associated with GM varieties has been hidden away from peer review or public scrutiny. Nevertheless, evidence is stacking up that the warnings about GM food given by Pusztai and Ewen in 1999 were well-founded, and that there are specific effects (including accelerations in the metabolic rate arising from "insults" to the immune system) which can be attributed to GM food components. It is reasonable to assume that some of the observed tissue damage in laboratory animals will develop into cancers. Other animals fed on GM crops developed smaller brains, livers and testicles, enlarged livers, partial atrophy and lesions of the liver, lesions in stomachs and kidneys, inflammation of the kidneys, problems with their blood cells, and higher blood sugar levels. It is already apparent that GM soya (now widely used in our food supply) is very dangerous indeed. Soy allergies in the UK went up by 50% soon after GM soy was introduced.

How much longer must we put up with these wretched scientists who seem to exist in a permanent state of denial about the damage associated with GM foods?

Yours etc
Dr Brian John,
Trefelin, Cilgwyn,
Newport, Pembs,
Tel +44 1239820470

3.Pusztai on TJ Higgins' attack (9/6/2005)

Recently a letter highly critical of Dr Arpad Pusztai and his research was published in the Australian press. The letter came from the plant biotechnologist, Dr T.J. Higgins, and it has been widely circulated on pro-GM lists. [You can read it here:
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5348 ]

I asked Dr Pusztai for his comments and these can be seen below. Although Dr Pusztai's response is very much to the point, it is of a general nature and so Claire Robinson has provided a commentary on the letter that deals with the more specific charges that Dr Higgins makes about Dr Pusztai's research.

Jonathan Matthews
www.gmwatch.org /



Hi Jonathan,

It has taken almost seven years for Dr Higgins to work up enough scientific steam to deny the validity of our findings with GM potatoes. Although I am not in favour to "personalize" the debate on the wrongs or rights of various pieces of research relating to GM plants, in the case of T.J. Higgins I have to make an exception as will become obvious from my comments:

1. T.J. Higgins is a plant geneticist and has no expertise or track record on nutritional/toxicological testing of anything, including GM cro

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