In an experiment conducted in the 1960s, which killed thousands of people, the famous American genetic scientist James Neel is said to have deliberately infected the Yanomami Indian tribe of Venezuela with a vaccine which produced symptoms similar to those caused by measles and then refused to treat them, to test his “natural selection” thesis. The alert was raised in a letter from Professor Terry Turner of Cornell University, USA, to the American Anthropological Association, after he read the proof copy of a book about this case. “Darkness in El Dorado”, which will be published in October, was written by journalist Patrick Tierney and if its allegations are proved to be true, the US scientific community faces some difficult times ahead. According to this book, Neel ordered a virulent vaccine called Edmonson B to be given to the Yanomami tribe. This vaccine causes symptoms similar to measles, to which the Indian tribe had no natural defences. Neel refused to allow medication to be distributed to treat those who became ill, leaving them to die so as to study the effects of the natural selection process. He intended to prove his theory that “the leadership genes will be eliminated by the genetic mediocrity of the masses”. Neel had previously been involved in experiments on human beings in the USA, in trials for the US Atomic Energy Commission. In these experiments, the victims were secretly injected with plutonium, without their knowledge, to study the effects of radiation in the human body. Neel escaped any possible punishment by dying on February 1st of this year. However, members of his team are still alive. The publication of this book is sure to create a storm in the scientific community. After the recent AIDS revelations, how many more of these cases are there to be discovered? Timothy BANKROFT-HINCHEY Correspondent of PRAVDA.Ru Lissabon 2000-09-29

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