Árpád Pusztai (8 September 1930) is a Hungarian-born biochemist and nutritionist who spent 36 years at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He is a world expert on plant lectins, authoring 270 papers and three books on the subject.
In 1998, Árpád Pusztai publicly announced that the results of his research showed feeding genetically modified potatoes to rats had negative effects on their stomach lining and immune system. This led to scientific criticism. Pusztai was suspended and his annual contract was not renewed. The resulting controversy became known as the Pusztai affair.
Árpád János Pusztai was born in Budapest, Hungary, on 8 September 1930. He obtained a diploma in chemistry in 1953 from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. He worked for three years as an associate scientist at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences before the Hungarian revolution against Soviet control in 1956. After the failed revolution Árpád Pusztai escaped to a refugee camp in Austria and from there made his way to England. He completed his doctorate in biochemistry at the Lister Institute in London and continued there with his post-doctorate. In 1963 he was invited to join the Protein Research Department at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. Pusztai worked at the Rowett Institute for the next 36 years, predominately studying plant lectins. During that time he discovered glycoproteins in plants, authored over 270 research papers, published 3 books and was considered an "internationally renowned expert on lectins". He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1988 and has received fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust. Árpád Pusztai is married to Dr Susan Bardocz, a colleague he met at the Rowett Institute, with whom he had two daughters.
In 1995 Árpád Pusztai began research on genetically modified potatoes containing the GNA lectin gene from the snowdrop plant. His group fed rats on raw and cooked genetically modified potatoes, using Desiree Red potatoes as controls. In 1998 Árpád Pusztai said in an interview on a World in Action programme that his group had observed damage to the intestines and immune systems of rats fed the genetically modified potatoes. He also said, "If I had the choice I would certainly not eat it," and that, "I find it's very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs."
This resulted in a media frenzy, and Rowett Institute's director Philip James, after initially supporting Pusztai, suspended him and banned both Pusztai and Susan Bardocz from speaking publicly. He also committed misconduct to seize the raw data. The Rowett Institute eventually published an audit criticizing Pusztai's results and sent the raw data to six anonymous reviewers who also criticized Pusztai's work. Pusztai sent the audit report and his rebuttal to scientists who requested it, and in February 1999, twenty-one European and American scientists released a memo supporting Pusztai.
Pusztai's experiment was eventually published as a letter in The Lancet in 1999. Because of the controversial nature of his research the letter was reviewed by six reviewers - three times the usual number. One publicly opposed the letter, another thought it was flawed, but wanted it published "to avoid suspicions of a conspiracy against Pusztai and to give colleagues a chance to see the data for themselves," while the other four raised questions that were addressed by the authors. The letter reported significant differences between the thickness of the gut epithelium of rats fed genetically modified potatoes, compared to those fed the control diet.
The Royal Society of Medicine declared that the study ‘is flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis’ and that ‘no conclusions should be drawn from it’. For example, too few rats per test group were used to derive meaningful, statistically significant data.
He was one of several scientists interviewed in the 2010 documentary Gekaufte Wahrheit - Gentechnik im Magnetfeld des Geldes who, based on their findings, have criticized the use of genetic modification for food.
Pusztai's annual contract at Rowett was not renewed following the incident and he moved back to Hungary. He has been giving lectures on his GE potato work and on claimed dangers in general of genetic engineering of crop plants. In 2005, he received the Whistleblower Award from the German Section of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) and the Federation of German Scientists (VDW). In 2009, Pusztai and his wife Prof. Bardócz Zsuzsa received the Stuttgart peace prize (Stuttgarter Friedenspreis).
- Dieter Deiseroth, Annegret Falter (Hrsg.) (2006). Whistleblower in Gentechnik und Rüstungsforschung Preisverleihung 2005: Theodore A. Postol, Árpád Pusztai. VMW. ISBN 978-3-8305-1262-2.
- Rowell, Andrew (2003). Don't worry, it's safe to eat: the true story of GM food, BSE, & Foot and Mouth. Earthscan. ISBN 1-85383-932-9.
- Levidow, L.; Murphy, J.; Carr, S. (2007). "Recasting "Substantial Equivalence":Transatlantic Governance of GM Food". Science, Technology & Human Values 32: 26. doi:10.1177/0162243906293885.
- "Árpád Pusztai: Biological Divide – James Randerson interviews biologist Árpád Pusztai". London: The Guardian. 15 January 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
- Bourne, F.J., et al (1998) Audit Report Overview Rowett Research Institute, 28 October 1998, Retrieved 28 November 2010[dead link]
- Bowden, Rebecca Six referees comments on Pusztai potato data e-mail from Royal Society to Pusztai, 10 May 1999, Retrieved 28 November 2010
- Murray, Noreen et al, (1999) Review of data on possible toxicity of GM potatoes The Royal Society, 1 June 1999, Retrieved 28 November 2010
- Enserink, M. (1999). "BIOENGINEERING: Preliminary Data Touch Off Genetic Food Fight". Science 283 (5405): 1094–5. doi:10.1126/science.283.5405.1094. PMID 10075564. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
- Ewen SW, Pusztai A (October 1999). "Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine". Lancet 354 (9187): 1353–4. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(98)05860-7. PMID 10533866.
- Enserink, Martin (1999). "The Lancet Scolded Over Pusztai Paper". Science 286 (5440): 656a–656. doi:10.1126/science.286.5440.656a. PMID 10577214.
- Key, Suzie; Julian; Ma, K-C; Drake, Pascal MW (2008). "Genetically modified plants and human health". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 101 (6): 290–298. doi:10.1258/jrsm.2008.070372. PMC 2408621. PMID 18515776.
- The Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy
- "Federation of German Scientists" (PDF).
- "Stuttgarter Friedenspreis 2009: Prof. Dr. Arpad Pusztai" (in German). Retrieved 10 February 2011.
- NJ Jaeger (December 2009). "Global to local: Stuttgart Peace Prize honors GMO whistleblowers". LA Examiner.