‘Golden Rice’ scandal tarnishes ethics committee

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-10 20:50:05

The results of an investigation into the infamous experiment of "Golden Rice," a genetically modified (GM) food, by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDCP), Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences (ZAMS) and the Hunan Provincial CDCP were published on December 6.

According to the investigation, 25 children ate 60 grams each of the GM rice in the experiment, which ran at Central Primary School of Jiangkou Town, Hengyang, Hunan Province in June, 2008. They will each reportedly receive 80,000 yuan ($12,850) to compensate for possible health risks.

The original experiment was run by a Chinese-born scientist from Tufts University in the US, and two Chinese researchers, one from the China CDCP and one from the ZAMS. The children suffered no side effects, but their parents did not give informed consent.

There are many reasons that account for the stir caused by the experiment. Choosing those children as test subjects showed the scientists' lack of conscience.

The result also shocked because those tests were performed stealthily, without getting proper approval.

According to Chinese laws, human experiments using GM rice should be strictly examined and approved by the agriculture and health authorities.

And before the test, those children's parents did not receive any information about the use of GM rice and were cajoled into signing an agreement. The scientists fooled the ethics committee by using a false official stamp.

The public can hardly believe that the experiment will be harmless to the children's health when considering the basic failures of integrity by the researchers.

The removal of the three scientists from their posts may not be enough and the apology to citizens from the China CDCP doesn't remorse their responsibility. Their behavior is more than academic misconduct. They despised our legal system and ignored scientific ethics.

There's supposed to be a series of safeguards. But it is obvious that our system is just going through the motions since those researchers cheated the ethics committee with a simple false stamp.

It is also regrettable that the China CDCP has not been questioned in their dereliction of duty when monitoring such experiments.

Although the local government gave 80,000 yuan to each of the 25 children's families in the name of time off from work and mental damages, and 10,000 yuan to other children who did not eat the rice, they're just trying to keep things calm.

It is strange that the consequences caused by those conscienceless scientists were borne by the government.

How can our government take charge of children's health if "Golden Rice" is proved to have negative efforts in the future? 

Guangzhou Daily

Posted in: Chinese Press

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