Scientist Letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack NOT a Fraud

Editor’s note (5-4-2011): Some of the comments below indicate the opinion that this particular post was not accurate or properly prepared for publication. At the time that it was written, this was the best available first-hand information that I was able to gather, and indicated a careful viewpoint within a finite period of time. I leave it to others to decide whether it was worthy, or not. More importantly, subsequent information has come to light indicating that Dr. Huber did indeed write the letter that was posted, and a complete mystery even now—given the seriousness of his stated concerns—why the mainstream press has largely ignored this story? For those interested in learning more, here are two excellent posts on this subject (one is a video interview): Latter-Day Luther Nails Troubling Thesis to GM Farm & Food Citadels; and Food Democracy Now! interview with Dr. Don Huber, on Roundup, GMOs and New Organism and Threats to U.S. Agriculture

Update: 2-25-2011 According to Reuters, Dr. Don Huber’s letter to Secretary Vilsack [existence of letter] confirmed by R. Andre Bell, USDA spokesperson, and is currently under review. Office of the Executive Secretariat, M. Young, apologizes for providing incomplete, and thus inaccurate information to this reporter when initially contacted yesterday about the existence of such a letter.

February 24, 2011 Yesterday, Cooking Up a Story referenced a letter purportedly sent from Dr. Don M. Huber, Professor Emertus at Purdue University, and coordinator for the Emergent Diseases and Pathogens committee of the American Phytopathological Society, to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. In that letter, Huber announced the discovery of a dangerous new pathogen that may be associated with the use of glyphosate based herbicides, such as Roundup, calling for the temporary moratorium on the recent decision to deregulate roundup ready alfalfa until further safety studies could be conducted that would either uphold the RR alfalfa decision, or direct a different course.

Cooking Up a Story now has reason to believe that letter may be a fraud.

Peter Goldsbrough, professor and head of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Purdue University where Dr. Huber had taught prior to his retirement 3 years ago, indicated by phone his skepticism over the authenticity of the letter, and most of the information contained within it.

Professor Goldsbrough stated that he, and the colleagues in his department, “are not aware of any new pathogen that has been identified”. The letter states in part:

“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” .

Goldsbrough explained, not only would it be highly unusual for a single pathogen (within the same species) to pass across multiple species’ barriers, its claims about the deleterious effects of glyphosate on the production of certain crops, he and his fellow colleagues also found to be suspect. The letter goes on to say:

” It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders.”

Professor Goldsbrough stated, “There are claims made that the use of Roundup and glyphosate, and the roundup ready system is causing significant declines in yield to some crops, and an increased incidence of diseases in some crops. The pathologists that I work with in this department, have no evidence for those claims.” He went on to say, “this organism that is claimed is a complete mystery, and many of these other things claimed to be connections between this organism, the use of roundup, the use of roundup ready crops, are completely unsubstantiated, and I’m not aware of any evidence for these claims”

A call to the USDA Office of the Executive Secretariat (OES) was unable to locate any letter of correspondence, or email, from Dr. Don M. Huber to Secretary Vilsack since December of 2010. Within this time frame, the Secretary of Agriculture did not receive correspondence from Dr. Huber.

As of yesterday, an email to Dr. Huber’s last known address to confirm the authenticity of the letter, and for his comment, have gone unanswered.


  1. says

    You may also want to reference a more recent video interview (Dec 2011) publ on YouTube titled: ‘Dr. Mercola Interviews Dr. Huber about GMO’. I’ve provided a link to this clip in the box you titled Website. This interview is very insightful and provides an excellent analysis of the subject matter described in the letter to Mr Vilsack.

  2. owen says

    you should change the title of this story to indicate it is not a fraud.
    “Scientist Letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack NOT a Fraud”

  3. says

    Thanks for your comment. I added a new clarification at the top highlighting the fact that subsequent information (after my post was originally written) bears out the authenticity of the letter, and have provided new links for those wishing to find out more information on this subject.

  4. revans says

    I would make that update bold- and also have to agree this article seem to but just shy of the tabloids you see in super market check outlines,except its on the internet…

    miss information is useless information, hey its the media…

  5. Keel says

    Pretty poor reporting on this story, regardless of your update at the top. Reactionaries had already been citing your post even after the update had been added and the letter confirmed.

  6. Rob says

    I have just personally spoken to Dr. Huber at a meeting in Ontario, Canada. He confirms that he sent the letter and received a response from USDA APHIS Risk Management, requesting more information. Odd then, that they have no record of having received it, isn’t it?

    After seeing Dr. Huber’s extensively-referenced presentation, it’s obvious that Goldsbrough’s lack of awareness is either false or intentional, and given Purdue’s dependence on industry funding that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Work to identify and explain the newly-discovered pathogen is ongoing – let’s hope it sees the light of day!

  7. says

    The spokesperson at the USDA Office of the Executive Secretariat indicated that all correspondence from the outside to Secretary Vilsack is recorded before it’s delivery. While it’s possible Dr. Huber’s letter was indeed sent, and was received by Vilsack, its highly unlikely that its existence would not have been recorded.

    They were able to confirm other letters expressing concern about the purported Huber letter to Secretary Vilsack after the RR alfalfa announcement; no letters from Dr. Huber were found from December 2010 to February 24, 2011.

  8. PC says

    In a phone interview, Huber said the purpose of his letter was to get the resources and scientific base behind it to research the pathogen, “to really sort everything out, because it’s becoming a crisis for us.” He added, “We have veterinarians very concerned about enough animals, just replacement animals, for our beef and dairy herds.”

    The USDA, contacted for this article, confirmed that the Huber letter had been received and is being reviewed, but a spokesperson said the department will respond to Huber directly, not through the media.

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