April 12, 2011
The Institute of Science in Society’s Dr. Mae-Wan Ho reports that a USDA senior scientist has sent an “emergency” warning to US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding a new plant pathogen in Roundup Ready GM soybean and corn that may be responsible for high rates of infertility and spontaneous abortions in livestock:
An open letter appeared on the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance founded and run by Judith McGeary to save family farms in the US [1, 2]. The letter, written by Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, warns of a pathogen “new to science” discovered by “a team of senior plant and animal scientists”. Huber says it should be treated as an “emergency’’, as it could result in “a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies.”
The letter appeared to have been written before Vilsack announced his decision to authorize unrestricted commercial planting of GM alfalfa on 1 February, in the hope of convincing the Secretary of Agriculture to impose a moratorium instead on deregulation of Roundup Ready (RR) crops.
The new pathogen appears associated with serious pervasive diseases in plants – sudden death syndrome in soybean and Goss’ wilt in corn – but its suspected effects on livestock is alarming. Huber refers to “recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.”
This could be the worst nightmare of genetic engineering that some scientists including me have been warning for years  (see Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare, ISIS publication): the unintended creation of new pathogens through assisted horizontal gene transfer and recombination.
Huber writes in closing: “I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.”
The complete letter is reproduced at the Institute of Science in Society’s site.
Monsanto has released the following statement in response:
In a January 17, 2011 letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, retired Purdue University professor Don Huber proclaims discovery of a plant pathogen “…that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.” The letter also alleges this pathogen is more prevalent on herbicide-tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops. No data was provided nor cited, and no collaborators were identified. When contacted, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)coordinator of the National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS) was unfamiliar with information or research about the alleged pathogen and was not contacted by Huber regarding the alleged pathogen discovery. NPDRS is charged with mitigating threats to U.S. agriculture from severe plant disease outbreaks.
Huber has previously made allegations related to micronutrient uptake and diseases in connection with GM crops and glyphosate products. Independent field studies and lab tests by multiple U.S. universities and by Monsanto prior to, and in response to, these allegations do not corroborate his claims. Monsanto is not aware of any reliable studies that demonstrate Roundup Ready® crops are more susceptible to certain diseases or that the application of glyphosate to Roundup Ready crops increases a plant’s susceptibility to diseases.