Friday, February 25, 2011

Can Don Huber Save Us from Monsanto? Will Vilsack Listen?

Yesterday I wrote about Mark Bittman, the New York Times writer whose new platform discussing food politics is a win for society, thanks to its pressing content and extensive reach. (His piece Wednesday on McDonald’s attempt at oatmeal is still the most e-mailed article from the paper’s website).

But for every Bittman and Michael Pollan, it’s important to know that there are thousands of people—all with no chance of ever appearing on Oprah—who are working tirelessly to make our food, water, air and soil safer (read: less toxic).

Just this morning, thanks to Food Safety News, I learned about veteran soil scientist Don Huber, a “plant pathologist and a professor emeritus from Purdue University . . . [who] coordinates the Emergent Diseases and Pathogens Committee of the American Phytopathological Society as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System.”

Huber recently wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack warning of a new pathogen linked to Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide (as if the danger list isn’t long enough already), which is used in conjunction with Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready soybean and corn seeds.

(Huber’s letter was sent before Vilsack’s USDA approved the use of genetically modified alfalfa. Alfalfa is an essential feed component for dairy farms. You do the math.)

According to Huber:

“[The] pathogen . . . appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.”

“The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income.”

“Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility.”

Whenever challenged, Monsanto’s response is part denial and part stonewall, but hopefully Vilsack will take this plea from Huber to heart:

“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.”
Click here to read Huber’s letter in full.

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