A research study probing the potential benefits of so-called golden rice, which sparked controversy last year, remains under review by Tufts, according to a spokeswoman for the university. The 2008 study, conducted in China by HNRCA scientists and colleagues, tested the efficacy of using the genetically modified rice to boost levels of vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A deficiencies affect more than 250 million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
After results of the study were published last summer in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Greenpeace International alleged that the parents of children who participated in the study in China were not fully informed about the GM rice product. Greenpeace actively campaigns against the inclusion of GM products in the food system.
In the months following the allegation, reviews of the study protocol and activities were launched by Chinese public health officials as well as officials at Tufts. In December, three individuals in China associated with the study lost their jobs. Friedman students received a letter from Simin Meydani, director of USDA-HNRCA and professor of nutrition and immunology at Friedman, acknowledging the actions in China, but reiterating that Tufts was committed to a review by a 5-member panel that includes “distinguished academics from leading universities in the United States.” Dr. Meydani’s correspondence noted that the panel has two charges: “to determine whether the study was in compliance with Chinese, U.S. and Tufts University requirements for scientific research,” as well as to “examine Tufts’ institutional policies and practices to determine if they are appropriate to ensure full compliance with the laws and regulations of other countries in which we are engaged in research.”
When asked for an update on Tufts’ investigation of the matter, Andrea Grossman, assistant director of public relations for the university, provided a written statement. “When questions were raised about whether the study adhered to all appropriate scientific protocols, Tufts University initiated a full review to determine whether proper study procedures were followed. Our process, which includes an external review panel and an inquiry by the Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University Health Sciences Institutional Review Board followed by deliberations, is ongoing. We are unable to provide additional information or comment at this time.” The statement also reiterated the university’s commitment “to the highest ethical and scientific standards in research.”
– M.E. Malone