Leading scientists call foul in the use of kids aged 6 to 10 as subjects in genetically modified foods trials, claiming a severe breach of medical ethics, specifically the Nuremberg code.
“We are writing to express our shock and unequivocal denunciation of the experiments being conducted by your colleagues which involve the feeding of genetically modified Golden Rice to human subjects.”
A formal letter of protest calling for an immediate end to the GM food experiments was sent by 22 scientists to the Tufts University School of Medicine, relating the unethical nature of the trials to a breach of the medical ethics code.
The Nuremberg code states that children under the age of 10 are not legally capable of giving consent to participation in experiments.
“It is completely immoral to feed this rice to children without proper safety testing…It’s like putting a new drug on the market with no toxicology or safety trials.” – Prof David Schubert, Salk Institute of Biological Studies
Children in the US and China were fed “Golden Rice” (modified to have enhanced levels of beta carotene), which has not been through animal trials for safety testing.
The project manager of the Golden Rice Organization claims no breach of etiquette, saying the experiment was reviewed by an ethical review panel. He also admitted to what seems like kid-bribery to me: “Children were rewarded with school bags and pencils and paper as a thank you for participating.”
The protest letter goes on to state the concerns of the scientists:
“It is a genetically modified product which has not been shown to be distinctive, uniform and stable over time. It has never been through a regulatory / approvals process anywhere in the world. There is now a large body of evidence that shows that GM crop/food production is highly prone to inadvertent and unpredictable pleiotropic effects, which can result in health damaging effects when GM food products are fed to animals.”
“Our greatest concern is that this rice, which is engineered to overproduce beta carotene, has never been tested in animals, and there is an extensive medical literature showing that retinoids that can be derived from beta carotene are both toxic and cause birth defects.”
The experiment was funded and administered by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Image: Keith Bacongco at Flickr under CC license