AT LONG LAST, the serious breaches of medical and scientific ethics of the GM golden rice trials on Chinese children appear to have been recognised – in this case, by the journal that published the research paper reporting the experiments.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is reportedly retracting the paper. The main concerns appear to be lack of informed consent on the part of the human subjects – neither the children nor their parents were told the rice was GM, nor were they informed of the possible risks. Ethical breaches are among the valid reasons for retracting a study, according to COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics).

While the blame for the fiasco is being placed on the lead researcher, Guangwen Tang of Tufts University, a large part of the responsibility should lie with the Tufts University ethics board that was supposed to be supervising the trial.

International scientists denounced the GM golden rice trials for breaching medical ethics back in 2009. No toxicity tests had been carried out in animals prior to the human trials, or at least none had been published. The scientists said the trials contravened the Nuremberg Code, set up after World War II to prevent a repeat of unethical and inhumane Nazi experiments on humans.

The IRRI, the body responsible for the rollout of GM golden rice, has admitted that no efficacy trials have been carried out to see if GM golden rice actually works in helping solve vitamin A deficiency.

GM golden rice doesn't even perform well in the field. In May 2013 the IRRI reported it had failed in field trials.

Meantime, the Philippines, where GM golden rice was field trialled, has all but solved its vitamin A deficiency problems by applying time-tested, commonsense non-GM solutions.

(Comment by Claire Robinson)

Originally Published: GM Watch