, 2022-08-03 11:56:00,
The question of ‘DNA fingerprinting’ came to the fore during the high profile investigation of the industry in 2015 led by then New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Based on work done at the University of Guelph by Steven Newmaster, PhD, Schneiderman alleged that botanical supplements sold by several prominent manufacturers were either understrength, mislabeled or contained various contaminants.
DNA testing started out under a cloud
Industry stakeholders were quick to respond that Newmaster’s work was rife with errors and that the DNA tests had been misapplied and their results mischaracterized. One major criticism was that many of the products besmirched by Schneiderman were based on extracts, which could be expected to contain little to none of the intact DNA of the parent plant, while they might still test positive for stray bits of DNA from other things, such as the houseplant in the lobby of the testing lab. The existing DNA tests available in 2013 were incapable of saying much about the quantity of a material present, but this was something that Schneiderman never admitted publicly.
The manufacturers, led by GNC, eventually came to an agreement with Schneiderman in which it was more or less baldy stated that there was nothing wrong with the products in question. The NYAG office essentially chose to move on and let the matter drop rather than admit a mistake.
Scientific competence, ethics called into question
In the meantime, the veracity of Newmaster’s 2013 paper has come under heavy fire. Last summer a 43-page allegation letter was sent to the University of Guelph by eight researchers from UG, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, and Stanford University calling for the retraction of the paper.
A University of Guelph panel concluded that even though Newmaster “displayed a pattern of poor judgement and failed to apply the standards reasonably expected in research activity in his discipline,” there was still “insufficient evidence” for charges of scientific misconduct against him. The 2013 paper is still under investigation by the open access journal BMC Medicine. A spokesperson for the journal, which is part of the Springer Nature group, earlier this year confirmed to NutraIngredients-USA the issue is being considered carefully but could not say when the review would be completed.
Another of Newmaster’s DNA-related papers published in a different journal was…
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