Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is the Chinese Academy of Science the Culprit of the Melamine Poisoning?

The crisis of tainted food is still spreading deeper and wider in China. Melamine contamination is now found in milk, dairy products, candies, and chicken eggs. It has now become apparent that, for many years, the chemical melamine has been added to animal feed and milk to artificially inflate the reading of protein levels. This intentional act is responsible for the pet food scare a year and half ago and has now caused four infant deaths and thousands of children in hospitals suffering from kidney stones and other illnesses.

Although the addition of melamine has been a wide-known secret in China, nobody really know how it got started. About a month ago, a netter posted in XYS an advertisement of technology transfer, dated July 30, 1999, from the Chinese Academy of Science. The ad promotes a new, cheap, and easy-to-make additive for animal feed that would boost the nitrogen content of the feed. It had a simple description of the raw materials (industrial organic chemicals and fertilizers) and equipments (boilers, mixers, and driers) involved and a price for the expertise and training. It did not, however, disclose the name or content of the additive.

The ad was reposted all over the Internet in China. Could this be the "invention" of the melamine contamination? The uproar is so deafening that the Chinese Academy of Science issued a rare public denial this morning.

The Academy spokesman conceded that the ad did read suspiciously close to a melamine operation. But a group of experts who had analyzed the ad concluded that its advertised technology could not reach the high temperature required for melamine. Therefore, it could not have been an advertisement for making melamine additives. The spokesman further claimed that the institute from which the ad had appeared no longer exists. The person resposible for the advertised technology was not even a researcher, but an "institute leader" who had come from a logistical support background.

However, the Academy did not disclose any information on the material or technology involved in the original advertisement. They did promise to continue paying attention to this issue.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shi Yigong Granted

Tshinghua University's Professor Shi Yigong has received a grant designated for outstanding young researchers with a foreign citizenship. During the public review period, Fang Zhouzi had openly questioned Shi Yigong's qualification and possibly forgery in this application. He had also sent his objections to the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation's Supervision Committee, via both email and cerfified mail. He has never received any response from the Committee. It was not clear if the Supervision Committee had ever paid any attention to the case, despite the fact that it had been well publicized in Chinese media.

Fang Zhouzi declared that he had lost all confidence with the Committee and will no longer be willing to make any further contact with the Committee.