Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The First "Canary in the Coalmine"?

[From Don Hess. The proprietor of this blog does not necessarily agree with the material in this posting.]

Has the first canary in the coal mine showed up? This past Sunday, two days ago, the Villages Daily Sun featured an article on page A 19 about a disease that's selectively hitting genetically modified crops. It's called Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), and for the past two years has been devastating soybean crops across several states, Iowa being the worst hit.

The story begins with an Iowa farmer whose soybean fields, "where he used seeds developed by Monsanto, and sprayed with its popular glycophosphate weed killer Roundup Ready <(sic), were littered with yellow leaves and dead plants. Four days earlier, the plants had been waist high and emerald green." "Nearby, in fields where he had planted seeds that weren't genetically engineered and didn't use glycophosphates, the soybeans were healthy and lush."

The article goes on to opine that SDS and its supposed cause, a fungus called fusarium solani f.sp. glycine, have been around since the 1970s, but that "last year, after a chilly spring and wet summer, soybean sudden death syndrome raced across the midwest." - and, strongly suggested by the article, singled out those plants produced from Monsanto's seeds. An expert on the disease at Iowa State University, Xiao Bing Yang, "estimated last summer that up to half the state's fields might be infected in varying degrees."

In January, Don M. Huber, an emeritus professor at Purdue University wrote a letter to Tom Vilsack, head of the USDA, asking the Department of Agriculture to investigate. and stating that the threat should be treated as an emergency. As of this last Friday, the Department's reply was that Huber's letter was "forwarded to the correspondence office." The article goes on to state that Huber's letter, which surfaced on the internet in February, starting a "firestorm" of controversy, "has intensified the battle between those who believe technology is the only way to feed a balooning global population, and those who are increasingly fearful that biotechnology is resulting in food that is nutritionally lacking and environmentally dangerous." The article goes on to detail a battle between Monsanto and the biotech "industry" on one side, and scientists, on the other, whose reputations and funding (increasingly sponsored by the industry itself as public funding has dried up in the current economic climate) are threatened by intimidation through industry ridicule, ostracism and loss of funds if they publish research articles which are - to put it euphemistially - "unflattering" to the industry.

In my op-ed piece, "Another view...", last week, I asserted that Monsanto's products were creating a "monoculture" of crops in the U.S. that could subject this nation to famine conditions if one or two diseases appeared that would attack Monsanto produced plants. It appears that this article could be describing the beginning of a pandemic of selective vulnerability that could wipe out those crops and potentially our future food supply. Could the crop failure among soy beans of the past two years be figuratively the first "canary in the coalmine" with regard to the vulnerabilities of biotechnically produced seeds. Read the article for yourself. You decide.

Don Hess


Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Don for bringing that story up for further discussion. It was first mentioned here on our Blog on April 7 in a comment by Mary Ann.

I replied there, but I'll copy my reaction here to your thread:

Thanks Mary Ann for bringing up that GM/Monsanto controversy article on "Mysterious Plant Disease Raises Questions on Modified Crops" in today's paper. (For TVPClub readers who do not get the "Daily Sun" (our paper in The Villages area), here is a link to the story. [NOTE: This link only gets you the first part of what was published in the Daily Sun.]

Although skimming the story may support alarm about GMO, a detailed reading dispells any concern.

Paragraph #3: " Scientists, who first spotted the disease in Arkansas in 1971 — more than 20 years before Monsanto introduced its Roundup Ready soybeans in the U.S. — blame damp weather and a fungus that rots the plant roots." Nothing new, "sudden death syndrome" is well known and predates GMO by two decades.

Don M. Huber, 76, the emeritus prof who is the source of the claim of GMO responsibility, has refused to make public any evidence of his claims.

Paragraph #8: "'This organism appears NEW to science!' Huber wrote ..."[upper case and exclamation in original].

Not only may it be linked to "sudden death syndrome" in soybeans, but it may also be linked to infertility in livestock, according to Huber (but not to any infertility in Huber's family that consists of 11 children and 36 grandchildren :^).

The remainder of the story tells how experts from the Agriculture Department and even his own college and professional society are distancing themselves from his wild and unsubstantiated claims.

But, you can read the story for yourselves - all the way through as I did - and make up your own minds.


Bottom line:

1) The "canary" of "Sudden Death Syndrome" first "sang" back in 1971, over two decades before GMO.

2) The disease is not "NEW to science!" as emeritus (i.e., old :^) Prof. Huber claims.

3) The "canary" is very much alive and feasting on the grain produced in unprecedented quantity and quality by GMO technology.

Ira Glickstein

sweeyee said...

Hi Don Hess,

I am writing on behalf of Dr. Alessandra Bonanni from the Division of Chemistry & Biological Chemistry, School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore.

We are currently working on a Technology Enhanced Learning project to convert some of the content from her course “Current Topics in Analytical Chemistry” to an online format. Dr. Alessandra Bonanni would like to use the image “The First "Canary in the Coalmine"?" as a visual guide to explain the concept of Analytical Chemistry. The image will be embedded to her online video lesson as an instructional method to help her students extend their understanding of Analytical Chemistry.

As such, we would like to seek approval to use the image of “Cyclic voltammetry of creatinine solutions measured using creatinine-imprinted by a commercial potentiostat” for the online video lesson. This online video lesson is strictly for the educational purposes and will only be disseminated through NTU’s Learning Management System, NTULearn, which is a non-public platform exclusive to students of NTU and accessed only through username and password. Additionally, only students of the Division of Chemistry & Biological Chemistry course will have access to this online video lesson during the semester they are taking the course. Students will not be able to download it and disseminate it in any way.

Please let us know if we can use this image in the online video lesson that we are producing. We can provide you with more details of the video lesson if needed. We also seek your assistance to direct us to the relevant department or personnel should this issue not be in your purview.

Thank you and we look forward to your reply soon.

Best regards,

Sweeyee LEE