An open letter appeared on the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance founded and run by Judith McGeary to save family farms in the US [1, 2]. The letter, written by Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, warns of a pathogen “new to science” discovered by “a team of senior plant and animal scientists”. Huber says it should be treated as an “emergency’’, as it could result in “a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies.”
The letter appeared to have been written before Vilsack announced his decision to authorize unrestricted commercial planting of GM alfalfa on 1 February, in the hope of convincing the Secretary of Agriculture to impose a moratorium instead on deregulation of Roundup Ready (RR) crops.
The new pathogen appears associated with serious pervasive diseases in plants - sudden death syndrome in soybean and Goss' wilt in corn – but its suspected effects on livestock is alarming. Huber refers to “recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.”
This could be the worst nightmare of genetic engineering that some scientists including me have been warning for years  (see Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare, ISIS publication): the unintended creation of new pathogens through assisted horizontal gene transfer and recombination.
Huber writes in closing: “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.”
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