The transcript of Devinder Sharma's Hyderabad speech 'Biotechnology: Exploiting the poor and hungry' is now available online: http://www.biotech-info.net/poor_hungry.html
Here's the first in an occasional series of profiles of the BIOTECH BRIGADE www.gmwatch.org
Professor Zhangliang Chen, Vice President of Beijing University, was the hero of the pro-biotech OECD conference in Edinburgh in February 2000. His announcement of his soon to be published GM food safety research, which claimed to find no "meaningful" difference in rats fed GM foods compared with rats fed non-GM foods, met with an ecstatic reception. Chen summarises his research in one paragraph of a paper featured in Klaus Amman’s journal Environmental Biosafety Research: http://www.ag.usask.ca/isbr/Symposium/Proceedings/Section2.html#4
Some unpublished findings are more equal than others
Oddly, the indulgence granted by the OECD conference to Prof Chen in allowing him to present unpublished (and therefore not peer reviewed) findings was not extended to Dr Arpad Pusztai. Dr Pusztai found himself repeatedly vilified, once again, at the conference for having commented "prematurely" on his own research findings before they were published. Could this attack on Dr Pusztai have anything to do with the fact that his results had found ill health effects in rats fed GM potatoes?
Mystery of the disappearing safety data
Dr Pusztai had an obvious interest in Prof Chen’s findings. Could this
be what we’ve all been waiting for -- science-based proof of the safety of a GM food? Dr Pusztai repeatedly asked Prof Chen to forward the data backing these claims in the weeks following the conference. In spite of Prof Chen’s assurances that he would send the data, it failed to arrive. So what has happened to Chen’s soon to be published research? Has it ever been peer-reviewed and published in full. We emailed Klaus Ammann, as EBR’s editor, asking for publication details, but to date have received no reply.
What’s in it for Chen?
Prof Chen’s interest in reassuring the public over the safety of GM products may go beyond pure philanthropy. Prof Chen is founder and president of Weiming Biotechnology Co, a biotech pharmaceutical company set up by the strapped-for-cash University of Beijing to bring in some much needed readies. Last year, companies owned by Beijing University recorded a total turnover of 8.7 billion yen, and are fast becoming a powerful business group. "These companies contribute around 500 million yen to the university annually, providing strong support to the development of research capabilities of the institution," Prof Chen said. http://www.cityu.edu.hk/mpu/bulletin/issue22/e2220.htm
Where Chen learned the business of biotech
Where did Prof Chen acquire his decidedly Western knack for making money out of GMOs? No doubt he had plenty of opportunity to pick up tips while carrying out four years of research partly funded by biotech giant Monsanto at Washington University in the company’s home town of St. Louis, USA: http://homepage.swissonline.ch/l.a.leuthold/english/zermatt_e.html
Let’s hope Prof Chen’s services to biotech will not go unnoticed by his friends at Monsanto. Shortly after he completed his reassuring safety assessment on GM foods, he was featured in one of China’s international newspapers, The World Paper, calling for "the participation of private entrepreneurs, or companies such as DuPont and Monsanto, in agricultural biotech R&D" to get GM products (perhaps like those developed by his own company Weiming) adopted on China’s farms. http://www.worldpaper.com/Archivewp/1999/dec99/guihua.html