Make us your home page
Instagram

Scientists question claims in biotech letter

DES MOINES, Iowa — The widespread Internet posting of a letter by a retired Purdue University researcher who says he has linked genetically modified corn and soybeans to crop diseases and abortions and infertility in livestock has raised concern among scientists the public will believe his unsupported claim is true.

The letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been posted on dozens of websites ranging from the Huffington Post to obscure gardening and food blogs, generating discussion on message boards about the controversial topic of genetically modified crops and their potential effect on animals and humans.

But other scientists say they have no way to verify professor emeritus Don Huber's claims because he won't provide evidence to back them up.

"People in the scientific community have at times made outlandish claims but it's been based on research that was flawed in some way, but at least the data was provided to be analyzed and critiqued," said Bob Hartzler, an Iowa State agronomy professor who called the letter "extremely unusual, especially coming from the scientific community."

Huber, 76, wrote the letter to Vilsack in January, warning of a new organism he claims has been found in corn and soybeans modified to resist the weed killer Roundup. Huber wrote that the organism could lead to a "general collapse of our critical agriculture infrastructure" and further approval of Roundup Ready crops "could be a calamity."

He told the Associated Press the organism that concerned him was found in much higher concentrations in corn and soybeans grown from so-called Roundup Ready seeds than in grains grown from conventional seed, although the samples of conventional crops tested were too small to get a reliable result.

Huber believes the pathogen has made genetically modified soybeans more susceptible to sudden death syndrome and corn to Goss' wilt. He also claims it's linked to spontaneous abortions and infertility in livestock that eat feed generated from those crops.

The USDA said: "It has been confirmed that no letter addressed to Secretary Vilsack from Dr. Huber has been received directly by USDA. The only copy we received was forwarded by a third party, and we do not respond to third-party letters."

Monsanto, the St. Louis-based company that developed Roundup-resistant seeds, said in a statement it was "not aware of any reliable studies that demonstrate Roundup Ready crops are more susceptible to certain diseases."

Huber's letter identifies himself as a retired Purdue professor, and it has left the Indiana university known for its agriculture programs in the uncomfortable position of being linked to research it can't verify.

"This is not Purdue research being carried on by people at Purdue University," said Peter Goldsbrough, director of the university's plant pathology department.

Goldsbrough said Huber declined to provide evidence supporting his claims or the names of his research partners.

"If someone is making a new discovery, they normally want someone to know about it and if this was an important environmental or agricultural problem, you would want to engage other people in finding what the causes of the problems are," he said. "I don't know what would be gained by not sharing."

Scientists question claims in biotech letter 04/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 10:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  2. Miami woman, 74, admits to voter fraud. Does jail await, or will she go free?

    State Roundup

    MIAMI — An 74-year-old woman pleaded guilty Monday to filling out other people's mail-in ballots while working at Miami-Dade's elections department.

    Gladys Coego
  3. Bigger ships carry Georgia ports to record cargo volumes

    Economic Development

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Bigger ships arriving through an expanded Panama Canal pushed cargo volumes at Georgia's seaports to record levels in fiscal 2017, the Georgia Ports Authority announced Monday.

    The Port of Savannah moved a record 3.85 million container units in fiscal 2017, the state said, benefiting from the larger ships that can now pass through an expanded Panama Canal.
  4. Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride

    Florida

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.
  5. Would you let your company implant a chip in you?

    Working Life

    Would you ask an employee to get a chip implanted in her hand? Sounds invasive and intrusive. But come Aug. 1, one company in Wisconsin will be giving it a try.

    Three Square Market - a developer of software used in vending machines - is offering all of its employees the option to get a microchip implanted between the thumb and forefinger. [Photo from video]