In a January 17, 2011 letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, retired Purdue University professor Don Huber proclaims discovery of a plant pathogen “...that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.” The letter also alleges this pathogen is more prevalent on herbicide-tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops. No data was provided nor cited, and no collaborators were identified. When contacted, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) coordinator of the National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS) was unfamiliar with information or research about the alleged pathogen and was not contacted by Huber regarding the alleged pathogen discovery. NPDRS is charged with mitigating threats to U.S. agriculture from severe plant disease outbreaks.
Huber has previously made allegations related to micronutrient uptake and diseases in connection with GM crops and glyphosate products. Independent field studies and lab tests by multiple U.S. universities and by Monsanto prior to, and in response to, these allegations do not corroborate his claims. Monsanto is not aware of any reliable studies that demonstrate Roundup Ready® crops are more susceptible to certain diseases or that the application of glyphosate to Roundup Ready crops increases a plant’s susceptibility to diseases.
The allegation that some mysterious pathogen is damaging U.S. corn and soybean production is contrary to extensive data documenting improved yield and economic performance for GM crops. In April 2010, the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences issued a report, “The Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States,” which concludes U.S. farmers growing biotech crops “...are realizing substantial economic and environmental benefits – such as lower production costs, fewer pest problems, reduced use of pesticides, and better yields – compared with conventional crops.” The report is posted online at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12804&page=R1
GM crops have undergone a rigorous safety assessment following internationally accepted guidelines, and no verifiable cases of harm to human or animal health have occurred. Dr. Huber’s claims are in conflict with the weight of scientific evidence supporting the safety and beneficial impacts of GM crops.
A number of public scientists have responded to the claims Huber’s letter makes:
Additional resources to consider include: