The experiment of feeding genetically modified rice to children

In the class of last week, we have learned some unethic cases in the real world. The most impressive one to me is the experiment of feeding genetically modified rice to children in China.

According to the lead author of this study (Tang Guangwen,Tufts University), this experiment was designed to detect whether the “golden rice”, which is one of the genetically modified rice, could be a effective rescource of providing vitamin A to humman. As known, genetically modified plant is still a new scitific product and each of them need  researches for generations to prove its safty. What’s more, the certain “outstanding” properties presented by genetically modified plant was resulted from its unnatural gene consequences, which might be changed one’s normal structure in molecular level and lead to unknown harm.  It was learned that there was no animal or human safty test of this kind of rice. Instead, they do their study directly on human body, which even 6-8 years old young children whose brain and body was still developing. It is really terrible to hear that scientists sacrifice the health and future of the young children only for the development of their own research. It hard to believe they do not think about the children and their parents when they made such decision.

However, the scientists are not the only one who should be blamed for unethics. Dave R. Schubert, professor of Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, said ” the test was done among Chinese children most likely because they could not pass the review process required for doing this type of clinical trial in the US”. So it is reasonble to question that, how this experiment on Chinese children could be passed? How can an unsafty experiment on human could be published on a scitific journal? Isn’t it a mislead to other scientists and fundings which support such kind of research?

What’s more, the related Chinese organization should also responsible for this unethic research. The information from Hunan province, where the experiment had done, clared that such experiment was agreed by both students and their parents and they signed the agreement to the school. The Chinese media was doubt that whether the school had clarified every potential dangers to parents. Part of co-authors of this paper were from Hunan province and they attend this experment.  I can not believe they do not know the danger of this experment. The only answer for them to do so might be the desiration of their own benefits, such as have more publications or obtain finacial support.

Thus, if when scientists, acdemic journals, universities and related govenment officers all failed to take the ethic responsibility of our society, who could stand out to protect the order and the original inspiration of science? It is true that the peers of scientists could oversee each other, like Schuber, one of 22 scientists who wrote an open letter to warn this experiment in this case. Also the public could reflect their opinions on scientific research. However, the scientists should still build their own professional ethic as soon as possible, and think through every step of their research based on this criterion.

In addition, scientists should try to find out other possible ways when the present one obey the ethic standard. As I am a student of food science, I know the rice is defenitely not the only way to provide vitamin A. There are numerous fruits and vegetables cotain vitamin A and we acturally do not need a genetically product. Although genetically product may be more economic ones, it is not a practical method to solve the shortage of plant in the long run.

Interesting press conference

I feel today’s press conference in our class is really exciting. Each of us represent one organization in the case of exceeding lead level of drinking water in DC and I am belong to EPA. Acturally, EPA had a direct reponsibility of the safty of drinking water in DC. At first, EPA started to notice this problem through an investigation from DCOIC which was about the irreglarities in sampling. It is true that EPA accepted this investigation and provide the report from WASA of 2000-2001 monitoring year, and stated that ” EPA had not appoved to exclued samples which exceed EPA limit”. However, EPA never get alert from this investigation and never doubt the report from WASA.

Also, the materials make me feel EPA even support WASA or at least trust WASA. This simply because the number of the report WASA submitted. During 2000-2001 monitoring year, EPA received 78 samples from WASA which was “much more” than the required number. In addition, the WASA had educated public how to protect theirselves through distributing the brochure approved by the EPA. Thus, it seems that WASA completed their task very well and EPA, which is designed to oversee it, also fulfill its responsibility as well. Neverthless, EPA never care about the quality of the sample they received, do not mention the way of getting sample and dealing with the data. What’ more, the effec of the method on preventing contamination from lead water publicized by WASA was also questioned in today’s press conference. It showed that EPA did not have a research on its effect and influence before approving and publicizing such solutions.

What’s more, when refering the suggestion to WASA or any other related organization or public who worried about the lead contamined water, EPA did not give out either clear or pratical answer. Both two “corrosion control” methods were objected by other dapartments from finacial and safty perspectives. Instead, EPA just make a compromise that only adjust PH of water without adding any chemicals. No datas or researches have shown that this could still resolve the lead proplem without trigging new problems.

At last, EPA suggested to investigate the real primary reason which leading to the elevated lead level in blood, since some other sources such as car exhaust and paint could be the main culprits. This kind of investigation was did worth to do, however, EPA should also keep on detecting the water quality and make clear its lead level in drinking water before taking any further actions.

I think EPA should have a lesson from this case and have alert about its oversee system. In the future, it is better for EPA to make a rule about water quality report such like, where to get the sample, who should be involved, the step of dealing with the samples and the way of analyzing datas. Try every effort to preven cheating on samples.  In addition, EPA should take its responsiblity in making policy or advice to other deparments or public, and behave actively in response to any question about the quality of drinking water.