I wish now was a time where we could rest assured that farmers were being…
Just when you thought the scandal surrounding genetically modified (GM) crops couldn’t get any worse, breaking news of a novel pathogenic microorganism that might be linked to GM agriculture is spreading like wildfire across the internet. While you couldn’t write a better sci-fi script if you tried, this research is potentially of grave concern.
A senior U.S. soil scientist has written to the federal government about a novel microorganism apparently linked to GM crops that may have the potential to cause infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals, raising significant concerns about human health. The letter was written to the USDA in light of the then pending decision to approve Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa, which has been genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Yet it appears that no official action was taken to investigate the research before the green light was given for commercial planting.
Let’s get one thing straight. We’re not talking about some “eccentric scientist” here. Dr. Don Huber is a retired Purdue University professor with more than 40 years experience as a plant pathologist, including work with the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and man made biological threats. In an urgent letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, Dr. Huber explains that a team of senior plant and animal scientists has recently brought to his attention a “microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.”
Huber raises concerns over the potential links between this novel organism and two significant crop diseases – sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy and Goss’ wilt in corn. Perhaps more worrying, however, is that laboratory tests have already confirmed the presence of the same pathogen in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. “The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in U.S. cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations,” he suggests.
Huber goes on to explain that the scientists found much higher concentrations of the novel pathogen in Roundup Ready soybeans and corn, suggesting a possible link with the Roundup Ready gene or the use of glyphosate – the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. On this basis, Huber calls for an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of Roundup Ready crops – including newly approved GM alfalfa – until any threat to crop and animal production and human health posed by glyphosate or Roundup Ready crops can be ruled out: “The threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status,” he warns. “In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.”
Huber states that he wrote to the USDA before the decision was made to approve Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa on the basis that “if either the [Roundup Ready] gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity.”
Alfalfa is grown as forage for livestock on 20 million acres across the U.S. and is the fourth-largest field crop behind corn, soybeans and wheat. According to USDA data, just 7% of alfalfa crops in the U.S. are currently sprayed with herbicide. So despite Monsanto’s claims that Roundup Ready Alfalfa will result in “less use of crop protection products,” the reality is that the use of Roundup Ready Alfalfa will inevitably result in increased herbicide use in the crop. Indeed, the Center for Food Safety warns that the substantial adoption of Roundup Ready Alfalfa could trigger large increases in herbicide use of up to 23 million lbs. per year.
So my question is this: unless the agencies charged with protecting public health can provide independent scientific evidence that answers all of Dr. Huber’s concerns – thereby ruling out any links between Roundup Ready crops and the potential threat posed by this novel pathogen – what are these agencies doing by giving the green light to the commercial planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa? I think we need some urgent answers and consensus as to the safety of this technology.