Scientist Defends Claim of New Pathogen Linked to GM Crops
Senior scientist stands up for his
claims amid storm of attacks; he deserves all our supportDr. Mae-Wan Ho
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Leaked letter that took off in the internet
A letter written by emeritus professor at Purdue
University Don Huber to US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack linked genetically
modified (GM) soybeans and corn to devastating crop diseases and high rates of
abortions and infertility in livestock (see ISIS’ report  Emergency!
Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops?SiS 50,
which attracted more than 3 000 ‘likes’ on facebook). It said the matter should
be treated as an “emergency” as it could lead to “a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed
Monsanto lost no time in trying
to discredit Huber ; and though many scientists have come out in his defence.
Huber was criticised for providing
no scientific evidence for his claims, nor did he identify the team of researchers
that have discovered the pathogen (for fear of compromising their career than
Bob Hartzler, an
Iowa State University agronomy professor, dismissed Huber’s claims, and told
Associated Press that the letter was  “extremely unusual, especially coming
from the scientific community.”
But Huber insisted
that the organism that raised his concern was found in much higher
concentrations in corn and soybeans grown from Roundup Ready seeds than in
grains grown from conventional seed (although the samples of conventional crops
tested were too small to get a reliable result). He believes the pathogen has
made GM soybeans more susceptible to sudden death syndrome and corn to Goss’
wilt; and reaffirmed his suspicion that it is linked to spontaneous abortions
and infertility in livestock fed on the GM crops.
He said he wrote
the letter to Vilsack because he thought the US Department of Agriculture
needed to “take immediate action and provide resources to further research his
claims”, but does not know how the letter got circulated. The letter (dated 17
January 2011) was sent through a third party to be hand-delivered to Vilsack.
The USDA acknowledged
it had received the letter. When asked by Associated Press, USDA stated that “we
do not respond to third-party letters,” and declined to comment further.
Huber, who now lives in Melba, Idaho, said he began his research at Purdue and continued it in collaboration with
other scientists in the Midwest, Florida, Brazil and Canada after retiring in
2006. He would not name the other scientists, saying they asked to remain
anonymous because the attention would “distract from the research.”
The USDA has ignored Huber’s
warnings. It deregulated alfalfa on 27 January, and in February deregulated sugar
beets, both genetically modified to tolerate Roundup.
Huber stands by his claims
76, emeritus soil researcher and retired US Army colonel
who served as an intelligence analyst for 41 years, stands by his claims. In a
three-hour talk to a gathering of 80 farmers, he began by telling the
congregation that he has been married for 52 years with 11 children, 36
grandchildren, and a great-grandchild on the way . He then launched into a
highly technical seminar on industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, and
the widespread use of herbicides, especially glyphosate and Roundup (Monsanto’s
formulation), and the evidence of the herbicide’s toxicity to both plants and
animals. More than 155 million acres of cropland were treated with glyphosate
during the 2008 growing season, and more by now.
He told his audience that glyphosate compromises plant defence
mechanisms and increases their susceptibility to disease. It reduces the
availability and uptake of essential nutrients, and increases the virulence of
pathogens that attack plants. All that was documented in more than a hundred
papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals (see  Scientists Reveal
Glyphosate Poisons Crops and Soil and other articles in the series, SiS
Finally, Huber reported on the newly discovered pathogen, which,
while not new to the environment, is new to science. Thepathogen
apparently increases in soil treated with glyphosate, and is then taken up by
plants, transmitted to animals via their feed, and onward to human beings by
the plants and meat they consume. The pathogen is very small, and can be seen
only via an electron microscope magnified 38 000 times. It has yet to be
describedor named, though work on that is almost complete, Huber said,
and all the research data would be published in a matter of weeks.
What made Huber write to Tom Vilsack? USDA was
about to approve the unrestricted use of GM alfalfa seeds that could result in
as many as 20 million more acres being sprayed with up to 23 million more
pounds of toxic glyphosate herbicides each year.
Because alfalfa is
pollinated by bees that fly and cross-pollinate between fields many miles
apart, the biotech crop will inevitably contaminate natural and organic alfalfa.
believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a
high-risk status,” Huber wrote. “In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an
emergency.” Vilsack authorized deregulation of GM alfalfa on 27 January.
Immediately after that, the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice filed a
lawsuit against the USDA, charging that its approval of GM alfalfa was
needed just $25 000 to sequence the genome of the newly identified pathogen,
and then to name it. But no government, university, or corporation would provide
that relatively paltry sum. Finally, a private individual made the money
available; by then, the lab originally keen to do the sequencing backed out as
the issue had become controversial. Still, Huber persevered, and said
they should be able to name the pathogen in a matter of weeks
EU president warned
posting  on the Food Democracy Now website in April contained another
letter sent by Huber to the EU and
UK commissions “at their request”, to provide a more detailed explanation of
his letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
began: “I wrote the letter to Secretary Vilsack for a very simple reason: we
are experiencing a large number of problems in production agriculture in the
U.S. that appear to be intensified and sometimes directly related to
genetically engineered (GMO) crops, and/or the products they were engineered to
tolerate – especially those related to glyphosate [the active chemical in
Roundup® herbicide and generic versions of this herbicide]. We have witnessed a
deterioration in the plant health of corn, soybean, wheat and other crops
recently withunexplained epidemics of sudden death syndrome of soybean
(SDS), Goss’ wilt of corn, and take-all of small grain crops the last two
years. At the same time, there has been an increasing frequency of previously
unexplained animal (cattle, pig, horse, poultry) infertility and spontaneous
abortions. These situations are threatening the economic viability of both crop
and animal producers.”
letter went on to say that it was the rising incidence of high infertility and
spontaneous abortions in various animal species that triggered the
investigations. After ruling out all previously known causes, they found the
new pathogen. Detailed examination showed that it is present “in all of the
cases examined to date.” A search for the source of animal infections revealed that
the new organism was abundant in soybean meal and corn products.The
organism appears to be compatible and synergistic with other microorganisms such
as Fusarium solani fsp. glycines that causes sudden death syndrome of
soybeans, and the gram positive bacterium Clavibacter michiganensis
subsp. Nebraskensis that causes Goss’ wilt in corn.
Although most corn hybrids have been genetically
resistant to Goss’ wilt, preliminary research in 2010 demonstrated that the
application of glyphosate herbicide, or the surfactant from glyphosate
formulations (Roundup) made them fully susceptible to this pathogen. This
disease was common in many Midwestern US fields planted with Roundup Ready (RR)
corn in 2009 and 2010, while adjacent non-GM corn had very light to no
infections despite the high inoculum present in no-till crop residues. The
increased Goss’ wilt in 2010 was a major contributor to the estimated loss of almost
one billion bushels of corn that year in spite of generally good harvest
Increased severity of plant diseases after
glyphosate application is well documented, Huber said, and, although rarely
cited, the increased disease susceptibility is due to the glyphosate
herbicides. The loss of disease resistance in RR sugar beets when glyphosate
was applied prompted researchers at the USDA sugar beet laboratory to include a
precautionary statement in their paper : “Precautions need to be taken when
certain soil-borne diseases are present if weed management for sugar beet is to
include post-emergence glyphosate treatments.”
All these findings raise special concerns for
the deregulation of RR alfalfa, which, Huber explains, “is productive in many
areas only because of its genetic resistance to bacterial wilt caused by
Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. insidiosum.” If the new organism is
associated with the wilt disease in alfalfa as it is in corn, that would make
the alfalfa also unsafe for animal feed, and their products such as milk for
Alfalfa is the US’s most valuable forage crop
and fourth most economically important crop, and its loss could “strike a
mortal blow to struggling dairy and beef operations.”
Thereafter, Huber reiterated the scientific
evidence that clearly indicates glyphosate’s strong chelating action that
prevents the plant from absorbing essential nutrients, undermining the plant’s
immune system and many other vital functions such as nutrient recycling, and
nitrogen fixation; weakening the plant so it becomes highly susceptible to
diseases. (See  Glyphosate Tolerant
Crops Bring Diseases and Death, SiS 47).
Finally, Huber mentioned deleterious effects of
GM crops in report from livestock producers in the US, emphasizing that
replicated independent research is needed in this area, especially in light of
the serious toxicological concerns raised recently that show potential human
and animal toxicity from very low levels of residual glyphosate in food/feed
that are many times lower than permitted in US food and feed products  (see
 Ban Glyphosate
Herbicides Now, SiS 43); and
also the recent Indian Supreme Court’s ruling that GM egg plant’s health risk
to humans needs further evaluation (see  Bt Brinjal Halted, SiS
He wrote: “I feel I would be totally
irresponsible to ignore my own research and the vast amount of published
research now available that support the concerns we are seeing in production
agriculture, without bringing it to the attention of the Secretary of
Agriculture with a request for him to initiate the much needed independent
research. Many producers can’t wait an additional 3-10 years for someone to
find the funds and neutral environment to conduct such critical research.”
Huber attached in addition, a letter to the US
Environment Protection Agency sent by 26 “leading corn insect scientists
working at public research institutions located in 16 corn producing states”
complaining that the “Technology/stewardship agreements” imposed by biotech
companies like Monsanto are preventing access to GM seeds and inhibiting their
research. As a result, “data flowing to an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel from
the public sector is unduly limited.” This says it all. Corporations have a
stranglehold on scientific research and the flow of scientific information (see
Monopoly of Science, SiS 42).
Huber is a leader among the growing ranks of honest
scientists desperate to reclaim science for the public good, and deserves all
our support. As I have indicated, Huber is alerting us
to what could be the worst nightmare of genetic engineering that some
scientists 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. This issue is very much alive
today, despite years of denial and suppression from proponents and regulators
alike (see  Scientists
Discover New Route for GM-gene 'Escape', SiS 50).
Ho MW. Emergency! Pathogen
new to science found in Roundup Ready GM crops? Science in Society 50 (to
Larsen RL, Hill AL, Fenwick
A, Kniss AR, Hanson LE, and Miller SD. Influence of glyphosate on Rhizoctonia
and Fusarium root rot in sugar beet. Pest Manag Sci 2006. 62,
Ho MW and Cherry B.
Glyphosate tolerant crops bring diseases and death. Science in Society 47.12-15,
Seralini G-E, Mesnage R,
Clair E, Gress S, de Vendomois JS, Cellier D. 2011. Genetically modified crops
safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements. Environ Sci
Europe 2011, 23, 10-20. http://www.enveurope.com/content/23/1/10
13. Ho MW. Genetic Engineering Dream of Nightmare? The Brave New
World of Bad Science and Big Business, Third World Network, Gateway Books,
MacMillan, Continuum, Penang, Malaysia, Bath, UK, Dublin, Ireland, New York,
USA, 1998, 1999, 2007 (reprint with extended Introduction). http://www.i-sis.org.uk/genet.php
14. Ho MW. Scientists discover new route for GM-gene “escape”. Science in Society 50 (to appear).
ken bebensee Comment left 22nd April 2011 11:11:25 lets have a petition to the USDA to fund more research on this.
J. Friedman Comment left 22nd April 2011 11:11:21 It's a travisty that the greed and unethical practices of Monsanto and a few other chemical companies take priority over truth and honesty that would protect our environment and all living creatures on our planet. Monsanto should be brought before a criminal court and charged with fraud, embezzelment and man-slaughter. They should be put away and fed their own roundUp ready crops and all the GMo products that belong to them by their own patents. They should not be allowed to harm any human or animal again.
This is the worst case of "AMERICAN GREED"
David Llewellyn Foster Comment left 22nd April 2011 18:06:06 Sadly, the corporate cabal of power-crazed chemical giants will not engage in reasonable, legitimate dialogue. This is substance abuse on the grandest scale. It will either require catastrophic events to hasten the necessary changes, or - providing the appropriate legal instruments of environmental law can be effectively deployed - the more desirable and expedient measure, of bringing these piratical predators to book through the ICC. The world needs really effective mechanisms to enforce international law especially with respect to the abuse of nature and natural systems. If we do not declare this our most urgent and highest priority, civilization as we know it will descend into ecological anarchy. I dare say everyone is familiar with the excellent French film "the World according to Monsanto" http://www.bbc5.tv/eyeplayer/video/world-according-monsanto
but also highly recommended is "the Idiot Cycle" another very controversial (Canadian) documentary, not yet freely available, but screened recently on Russia Today. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Idiot_Cycle
Stephanie DeJong Comment left 23rd April 2011 12:12:42 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Matthew 18:7
Todd Millions Comment left 24th April 2011 12:12:29
Thanx for the update on this very interesting matter.I'm still unable too confirm that the Viseck desision too approve the GM sugar beet and alfafa-was ordered by the changeling himself.Not that the duplicitious swine in the whitehouse wouldn't be capble of this but why with this matter?If it is indeed the case.I should also be interested in the corprate sugar mafias who WANT the roundup resistant beets.All the weeds that are pulled up with the sugar beets I'm aware of,seperate very easily from the sorting equipment.Indeed the worst one-horse radish is a valuable by-crop.Surely a organic version of"hutterite viagra",would be even more so.
Lisa Comment left 13th May 2011 10:10:52 Have you heard the latest news? Monsanto is trying to take over public NPR.... on marketplace.
John Fryer Comment left 5th June 2011 15:03:01 Shiploads of GMO soya/soja enter Britanny ports every week. France has a ban on growing GMO/OGM crops but not it seems on importing GMO for biscuits, cakes, chocolate, or animal foods etc etc.
Trillions of meals eaten with absolutely no harm and sadly absolutely no knowledge to most Europeans when and where we get GMO meals. Excuse me while I sort out a little BLEEDING problem. It is one big LIE.
While all this goes on animals here are dying from a new BLEEDING disorder.
And in North Germany - home to the new GMO potato - people are dying like flies or should that be pestisential insects feeding on GMO soya, GMO potatoes, GMO beer et al.
Is there a connection between insects dying from gut disorders and bleeding and these humans dying like flies from exactly the same demise?
Bt toxins and E Coli once harmless have been genetically changed into something to be FEARED.
One thing that seems OFF LIMITS in the unrelentless hunt for the culprit killer is GMO and in John Dalli's hands author of much new approved GMO products we should expect this to be the small tip of one big problem.
So what makes John Dalli the chief investigator into harm.
And what makes John Dalli qualified to say dangerous GMO products should ever get permission to kill Europeans?
Harold Titsonbeli,sr Comment left 16th October 2012 21:09:07 Please post more stats on bleeding disorder,may be helpful.Take care mates,Harry