Topic Updates have been moved towards the bottom of this posting
Glyphosate’s Impact on Field Crop Production and Disease Development
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent decision to approve Roundup Ready alfalfa renewed a debate about the safety of genetically modified crops and the use of glyphosate in the environment.
This is not a new controversy, but many statements released in recent weeks by groups opposed to the use of genetically modified (GM) crops have claimed that glyphosate use and Roundup Ready® technology will be disastrous and that glyphosate has damaged crop production by decreasing nutrient availability to plants, reducing nutrient content of food and livestock feed, and increasing plant susceptibility to disease (Zerbe, 2011). There also are claims that glyphosate is contributing to an increase in more than 40 plant diseases that may also affect human and animal health (Smith, 2011; Zerbe, 2011). However, evidence to support these claims has neither been presented to nor evaluated by the scientific community.
Overall, the claims that glyphosate is having a widespread effect on plant health are largely unsubstantiated. To date, there is limited scientific research data that suggest that plant diseases have increased in GM crops due to the use of glyphosate. Most importantly, the impact of these interactions on yield has not been demonstrated. Therefore, we maintain our recommendations of judicious glyphosate use for weed control. We encourage crop producers, agribusiness personnel, and the general public to speak with University Extension personnel before making changes in crop production practices that are based on sensationalist claims instead of facts.
Iowa State University Extension:
Use Facts to Make Glyphosate and Glyphosate
Resistant Crop Decisions
By Bob Hartzler and Mike Owen, Department of Agronomy
Information presented recently on the Web and in seminars across the Midwest has portrayed devastating consequences due to the widespread use of glyphosate and glyphosate resistant crops. It is important to recognize that there is little data published in refereed journals to support these claims. Data that are available have been taken greatly out of context to support the accusations. The issues and claims have been brought forward by Dr. Don Huber, retired professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University. Recently, Purdue University faculty members have responded to these claims and using peer-reviewed science, have refuted the statements made by Dr. Huber.
A Letter from the President
The American Phytopathological Society
Dear Fellow APS Members:
Many of you may be aware of a recently released open letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack from Dr.Don Huber. Although Dr. Huber is a member of APS and is coordinating a meeting through APSon behalf of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS), Dr. Huber does notspeak as a representative of APS or the NPDRS.
We appreciate Dr. Huber bringing forth an issue that he believes is of concern, and look forward tothe availability of the data appearing in appropriate peer-reviewed outlets to support his claims sothat the breadth of the scientific community across plant, animal, and human health can fullyunderstand his concerns.
APS supports the scientific process in bringing information about new maladies and their etiologyto light and hope that the approach has been undertaken in this case. The appearance of thesupportive data in peer-reviewed outlets would certainly facilitate the engagement of the broaderscientific community in this discussion. Additionally, as scientists it is good that we engage thepublic, stakeholders, and policymakers, but please remember that our Manual of Operationsexplicitly states, "Members of the APS speak only for themselves as professional scientists whengiving opinions or making statements."
John L. Sherwood APS President
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn-suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!
This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen's source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.
We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.
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.
A diverse set of researchers working on this problem have contributed various pieces of the puzzle, which together presents the following disturbing scenario:
Unique Physical Properties
This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.
Pathogen Location and Concentration
It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.
Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease
The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income-sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss' wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).
Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure
Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.
The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.
For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.
In summary, because of the high titer of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA's participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.
It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.
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.
COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber
Emeritus Professor, Purdue University
APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS)
February 2014 – Don Huber Petition to sequence and study pathogen before it harms us
September 2013 – Don Huber – Bill 2491 Hawaii
July 2013 Update: http://pesticidetruths.com/2013/07/23/activists-whining-first-hand-roundup-is-found-to-be-safe-on-food-epa-posts-public-comments-glyphosate-tolerance-increase-in-food-crops-regulations-gov-docket-browser/
EPA allows more Pesticide Glyphosate (RoundUp) Residue on Fruit and Vegetables.
(October 2012) Updated: Review of the Séralini et al. (2012) publication on a 2-year rodent feeding study with glyphosate formulations and GM maize NK603 as published online on 19 September 2012 in Food and Chemical Toxicology http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/2910.htm
(September 2012) Updated: Seralini Study April 2012
Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerantgenetically modiﬁed maize
(March 2012) Updated:
Dr. Eric Seralini – French Glyphosate Researcher – Fraudulent Scientist of the Year Certification
(Nov , 2011) Updated: Power Point Presentation by Dr. Don Huber at bottom of Post
Glyphosate Effects on Crops, Soils, Animals, and Consumers
(Aug, 2011) Updated: Audio Link added at bottom of Post
Roundup Herbicide Claims have been lauded by environmental groups and generally rejected by scientists
Iowa Sate University: Use facts to make glyphosate and glyphosate resistant crop decisions