Parents of children in Hunan GM rice trial were lied to

Parents of children who unwittingly took part in a controversial testing of genetically modified rice on children in Hunan five years ago - which resulted in the sacking of three scientists on Thursday - were only shown the last page of the endorsement paper, state media reported yesterday.

Professor Yin Shian, director of the Hunan Centre for Disease Control and Prevention's department of female and child nutrition, was sacked for violating academic ethics. Wang Yin, science and technology director of the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences, and Hu Yuming, assistant director of the Hunan CDC, were also sacked.

A statement on the website of the national Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday the three researchers, together with Professor Guangwen Tang from Tufts University in the United States, had given 25 primary school pupils in Hengnan county, Hengyang, 60 grams of "golden rice" for lunch without informing them, their parents or the school that the rice was genetically modified.

The authorities said that before the experiment, Yin gave the pupils' parents the last page of the endorsement paper to sign. It did not mention the words "golden rice" or "genetically modified". Yin was also accused of misleading and lying to investigators after the government launched the investigation in August.

Wang approved the experiment, which was designed to measure the effectiveness of golden rice in boosting vitamin A levels, by using the official stamp of her academy without authorisation. Hu was blamed for his poor oversight of the experiment, which allowed Yin and Tang to "secretly" add the golden rice to the pupils' diet.

"Golden rice" was developed by scientists to address a vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, a problem which leads to the deaths of more than a million children a year.

None of the researchers could be reached for comment yesterday.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Parents duped into taking part in rice trial