The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently deregulated Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa, but two weeks before the department’s chief, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, made his decision, a senior soil expert alerted USDA to a newly discovered, microscopic pathogen that had been found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready corn and soy the researchers believe could be causing infertility in livestock, as well as diseases in crops that have the potential to threaten the nation’s entire domestic food supply.
The warning was issued by Dr. Don Huber, a plant pathologist and former Purdue University professor, who wrote in a letter to the Department of Agriculture that the pathogen he discovered is new to scientists, and that it appears to impact the health of plants, animals and most likely humans to a significant degree.
“For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and man-made biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks,” Huber wrote in a Jan. 16 letter to Vilsack.
“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,” Huber warned.
More and more farmland already being affected
The retired professor has called for an immediate moratorium on any approvals of Roundup Ready crops. Despite his warning; however, the USDA fully deregulated Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa Jan. 27 following nearly five years of court battles with environmental groups and farmers. The department had partially deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beets Feb. 4.
Reports have said that the pathogen is about the size of a virus and is able to reproduce like a micro-fungal organism. Huber says the organism could be the first micro-fungus of its kind, and that evidence exists that the infectious pathogen may cause diseases in plants and animals, which is rare indeed.
The pathogen appears to be prevalent in soy crops that are suffering from a disease known as sudden death syndrome; corn crops, meanwhile, are suffering from Goss’ wilt disease, which, according to Iowa State University, turned into the “disease of the year,” despite historically dry conditions (Goss’s wilt tends to develop more readily in wet weather with high humidity).
The “disease is caused by a bacterial pathogen that overwinters in residue of corn and several grasses,” says a description of the disease by agri-giant DuPont.
“Historically, damage to corn had been confined mostly to the Great Plains states. In recent years;” however, “significant crop damage has also been reported in central Corn Belt states,” said DuPont, adding that in some cases, crop damage can be as high as 50 percent.
Lab tests indicate that the pathogen is also present in a “wide variety” of livestock that is suffering from infertility and spontaneous abortions. Huber warned that the pathogen may be responsible for reports of increased fertility rates in dairy cows and spontaneous abortions in cattle that reach as high a 45 percent.
Growing concern over infestation of resistant ‘superweeds’
The scientist says he’s concerned the pathogen could be spreading because of an over-reliance on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops, which are vastly dominant in American agribusiness and increasingly around the world as well, especially over the past decade.
“We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of alfalfa,” Huber said. “Naturally, 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.”
Experts like Huber have been critical of glyphosate products like Roundup for weakening the natural defense systems of crops while promoting the spread of glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” that have developed a dangerous tolerance to glyphosate and infested millions of acres of U.S. farmland.
“We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders,” Huber wrote. “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.”