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SCIENCE & RISK ASSESSMENT: U.S. scientist warns on safety of Monsanto’s Roundup



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   SCIENTIST WARNS ON SAFETY OF MONSANTO?S ROUNDUP

SOURCE:  Thomson Reuters, USA

AUTHOR:  Carey Gillam

URL:     http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/24/us-monsanto-roundup-idUSTRE71N4XN20110224

DATE:    24.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Questions about the safety of a popular herbicide made by Monsanto Co have resurfaced in a warning from a U.S. scientist that claims top-selling Roundup may contribute to plant disease and health problems for farm animals. Plant pathologist and retired Purdue University professor Don Huber has written a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warning that a newly discovered and widespread ?electron microscopic pathogen appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.?"

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SCIENTIST WARNS ON SAFETY OF MONSANTO?S ROUNDUP

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Questions about the safety of a popular herbicide made by Monsanto Co have resurfaced in a warning from a U.S. scientist that claims top-selling Roundup may contribute to plant disease and health problems for farm animals.

Plant pathologist and retired Purdue University professor Don Huber has written a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warning that a newly discovered and widespread ?electron microscopic pathogen appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.? He said the pathogen appears to be connected to use of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup.

Huber coordinates a committee of the American Phytopathological Society as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System. He is a long-standing critic of biotech crops, such as Monsanto?s ?Roundup Ready? soybean and corn, which have been genetically altered to withstand treatments of Roundup herbicide.

In his letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Huber said the organism has been found in high concentrations of Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, which are used in livestock feed. He said laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of the organism in pigs, cattle and other livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility.

The organism is also prolific in corn and soybean crops stricken by disease, according to Huber.

?I 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.?

Monsanto scoffed at the allegations and said its own research as well as independent field studies and tests by multiple U.S. universities do not corroborate Huber?s claims.

?Monsanto is not aware of any reliable studies that demonstrate Roundup Ready crops are more susceptible to certain diseases or that the application of glyphosate to Roundup Ready crops increases a plant?s susceptibility to diseases,? the company said in a statement.

EARLY STAGE FINDINGS

Huber said in his January 17 letter to the USDA that the findings were at an ?early stage,? but it appeared side effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated growth of the pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts.

He requested USDA participation in an investigation, and he urged a moratorium on approvals of Roundup Ready crops.

USDA officials declined to comment about the letter?s contents.

?We?re reviewing it, and will respond directly to Dr. Huber, rather than responding through the media,? said USDA spokesman Andre Bell.

Roundup has long been a draw for critics, who say the herbicide promotes widespread weed resistance, or ?super weeds.?

?While the evidence is considered preliminary, the potential damage to humans and animals is severe,? said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology.

There have been other alarms raised about Roundup, including a report last year from Argentine scientists who claimed that Roundup can contribute to birth defects in frogs and chickens.

Monsanto says the chemical binds tightly to most types of soil, is not harmful and does not harm the crops. But some scientists say there are indications of increased root fungal disease as well as nutrient deficiencies in Roundup Ready crops. They say manganese deficiency in soybeans in particular appears to be an issue in key U.S. farming areas.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said last year that it may review glyphosate for any adverse effects as part of a protocol to review products every 15 years.

But the agency had no immediate comment Thursday as to whether or not such a review would be undertaken.

(Additional reporting by Christopher Doering in Washington)



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   RESEARCHER: ROUNDUP OR ROUNDUP-READY CROPS MAY BE CAUSING ANIMAL MISCARRIAGES AND INFERTILITY

SOURCE:  Farm and Ranch Freedom, USA

AUTHOR:  Don M. Huber, Letter

URL:     http://farmandranchfreedom.org/gmo-miscarriages

DATE:    18.02.2011

SUMMARY: "One of the nation?s senior soil scientists alerted the federal government to a newly discovered organism that may have the potential to cause infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals, raising significant concerns about human health. Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, believes the appearance and prevalence of the unnamed organism may be related to the nation?s over reliance on the weed killer known as Roundup and/or to something about the genetically engineered Roundup-Ready crops. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the professor called on the federal government to immediately stop deregulation of roundup ready crops, particularly roundup ready alfalfa."

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RESEARCHER: ROUNDUP OR ROUNDUP-READY CROPS MAY BE CAUSING ANIMAL MISCARRIAGES AND INFERTILITY

One of the nation?s senior soil scientists alerted the federal government to a newly discovered organism that may have the potential to cause infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals, raising significant concerns about human health. Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, believes the appearance and prevalence of the unnamed organism may be related to the nation?s over reliance on the weed killer known as Roundup and/or to something about the genetically engineered Roundup-Ready crops. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the professor called on the federal government to immediately stop deregulation of roundup ready crops, particularly roundup ready alfalfa.

Below is the full text of the letter:

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

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!

This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen?s source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.

We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.

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.

A diverse set of researchers working on this problem have contributed various pieces of the puzzle, which together presents the following disturbing scenario:

Unique Physical Properties

This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.

Pathogen Location and Concentration

It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.

Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease

The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income?sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss? wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).

Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure

Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.

The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.

For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.

Recommendations

In summary, because of the high titer of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA?s participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.

It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. 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. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.

I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. 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.

Sincerely,

COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber, Emeritus Professor, Purdue University, APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS)



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   STATEMENT ABOUT ALLEGED PLANT PATHOGEN POTENTIALLY ASSOCIATED WITH ROUNDUP READY CROPS

SOURCE:  Monsanto, USA

AUTHOR:  Statement

URL:     http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/huber-pathogen-roundup-ready-crops.aspx

DATE:    22.02.2011

SUMMARY: "In a January 17, 2011 letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, retired Purdue University professor Don Huber proclaims discovery of a plant pathogen ?...that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.? [...] Huber has previously made allegations related to micronutrient uptake and diseases in connection with GM crops and glyphosate products. Independent field studies and lab tests by multiple U.S. universities and by Monsanto prior to, and in response to, these allegations do not corroborate his claims."

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STATEMENT ABOUT ALLEGED PLANT PATHOGEN POTENTIALLY ASSOCIATED WITH ROUNDUP READY CROPS

In a January 17, 2011 letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, retired Purdue University professor Don Huber proclaims discovery of a plant pathogen ?...that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.? The letter also alleges this pathogen is more prevalent on herbicide-tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops. No data was provided nor cited, and no collaborators were identified. When contacted, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) coordinator of the National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS) was unfamiliar with information or research about the alleged pathogen and was not contacted by Huber regarding the alleged pathogen discovery. NPDRS is charged with mitigating threats to U.S. agriculture from severe plant disease outbreaks.

Huber has previously made allegations related to micronutrient uptake and diseases in connection with GM crops and glyphosate products. Independent field studies and lab tests by multiple U.S. universities and by Monsanto prior to, and in response to, these allegations do not corroborate his claims. Monsanto is not aware of any reliable studies that demonstrate Roundup Ready® crops are more susceptible to certain diseases or that the application of glyphosate to Roundup Ready crops increases a plant?s susceptibility to diseases.

The allegation that some mysterious pathogen is damaging U.S. corn and soybean production is contrary to extensive data documenting improved yield and economic performance for GM crops. In April 2010, the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences issued a report, ?The Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States,? which concludes U.S. farmers growing biotech crops ?...are realizing substantial economic and environmental benefits ? such as lower production costs, fewer pest problems, reduced use of pesticides, and better yields ? compared with conventional crops.? The report is posted online at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12804&page=R1

GM crops have undergone a rigorous safety assessment following internationally accepted guidelines, and no verifiable cases of harm to human or animal health have occurred. Dr. Huber?s claims are in conflict with the weight of scientific evidence supporting the safety and beneficial impacts of GM crops.