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. Trumps travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, the New York Times reports, citing officials familiar with the plans.

    President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans said Friday. The new restrictions, aimed at preventing security threats from entering the United States, could go into effect Sunday after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration's original travel ban. Though the restrictions would differ for each country, people living in the targeted nations could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa. [Associated Press]
  2. In dollars: How valuable are Florida's university football programs?

    Business

    The University of Florida football program is valued in a new study at $682 million, making it the most valuable university team in the state but still worth far less than several college programs topping $1 billion. Four years ago, UF's program was valued at just under $600 million.

    The University of Florida football program is valued at  $682 million, making it the most valuable by far in the Sunshine State. Pictured are UF cheerleaders leading the crowd in a Gator cheer on Clearwater Beach last December during the Outback Bowl Beach Day on Clearwater Beach. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  4. Florida bought more Pasta Passes from Olive Garden than almost any other state

    Food & Dining

    Floridians would like their bowls of pasta to never, ever end.

    Florida was the No. 2 state with the largest number of Olive Garden Pasta Pass purchases, an unlimited pasta pass for $100. Photo courtesy Olive Garden.
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
[Times]