Leading Plant Scientist Sounds Alarm—USDA GM Alfalfa Decision Under Possible Review

February 24, 2011.

“For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.”

So says Dr. Don M. Huber who coordinates the Emergent Diseases and Pathogens committee of the American Phytopathological Society, and Professor Emertus at Purdue University, in a recent email to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, issuing an urgent warning for the agency to delay the deregulation of Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa “until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does”. RR alfalfa is a genetically modified crop variety introduced by Monsanto, but feared by organic farmers, and some conventional farmers alike.

Although early industry claims that the overall use of herbicides would decline with the introduction of roundup ready resistant crops, the use of roundup, with its active ingredient glyphosate, has increased over the years. Huber, who has been studying the effects of roundup for more than 20 years, notes the rise of plant and animal pathologies he believes may be associated with the use of this product.

His email to Vilsack came in response to the discovery of a new pathogen that was found in plants, and animals exposed to glyphosate.

“A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!”

Here’s a link to the letter he sent to Secretary Vilsack (at bottom of post).

Alfalfa is the 4th largest commodity crop grown in the U.S., and widely used as feed for livestock. Critics of RR alfalfa are especially concerned that gene transfer (of the roundup ready resistant gene) to non-genetically engineered alfalfa varieties will result in the contamination of their crop.

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