Monsanto Begins Smear Campaign on Huber
NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series centered around our conversations with Howard Vlieger in the past two weeks, including additional information that has come to light about Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, in the past 48 hours.
Bio-Chem Giant Openly Lies About Scientific Studies Concerning Roundup
AND SO IT BEGINS. Just as Col. Don Huber, among the most trusted military leaders and scientists in the nation, warns us of a potentially lethal soil pathogen related to the weed killer known as Roundup, the effort to discredit him has predictably been launched.
With Reuters and other major news organizations finally pushing forward on our Feb. 16 story about Huber’s letter to the USDA that warned of spontaneous miscarriage possibly linked to Roundup, the manufacturer Monsanto has posted a rebuttal on its website: “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 . . . ”
In the next paragraph, Monsanto follows up by acknowledging what a pesky thorn Huber has been, ever since they hired him to research their genetically modified products more than two decades ago.
“Huber has previously made allegations related to micronutrient uptake and diseases in connection with GM crops and glyphosate products,” said the statement. “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’S BIG LIE
Then Monsanto drops what might appear to be an innocuous disclaimer: “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.”
If you listen closely, you can hear scores of scientists laughing aloud at that one. The key word therein, of course, is “reliable.” By whose definition would dozens, if not hundreds, of studies be considered reliable? By Monsanto’s definition, if the St. Louis conglomerate did not conduct or commission the study, it must not be reliable.
With that statement, Monsanto is clearly flat-out lying, according to numerous sources, many who do not want their names mentioned for fear of retribution. One scientist who would go on the record was, however, direct.
“The statement in Monsanto’s letter of response is disingenuous,” said Dr. James E. Rahe, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. “The published research from my lab done during the 1980s and 1990s showed that glyphosate (Roundup) causes increased susceptibility of dicot species to infection by root rot fungi such as pythium and fusarium.”
Rahe is retired now to life as a row-crop farmer and has less at stake than his younger counterparts who still toil in laboratories that depend, largely, on funding from Monsanto and its brethren to conduct their work. He said he is inclined to accept Huber’s letter and inherent warnings to the USDA.
“On reading the letter, my impression is that it was sent in good faith,” said Rahe, who said he still uses Roundup on a limited basis on his farm. “The claims made in Huber’s letter concerning a novel ‘micro-fungal-like organism’ appear to be based on a substantial amount of unpublished research by several individuals in distinct scientific disciplines. If so, and now that ‘the cat is out of the bag,’ it will be interesting to see what information appears in the domain of the scientific community in the near future with regard to the nature of this organism and its relationship to certain plant diseases and animal reproductive failure.”
THE FEAR FACTOR
We have spoken at length with Howard Vlieger, the president of Verity Farms, who has been following the debate about genetically modified crops for years. He said he is aware of the names of the scientists who discovered the pathogen referenced in Huber’s letter — but says those names must be protected for now.
“If you’re a practicing researcher dependent on a certain level of funding, it can be very, very damaging to come forward with any information that is considered detrimental to the GM industry,” said Vlieger. “It can literally ruin careers.”
Making research involving genetically modified crops even more difficult is Monsanto’s overt squelching of any research by independent labs. The company won’t make seeds available and will take scientists to court for attempting to take any independent research public. Farmers, by contract, are not allowed to share even a handful of seed with a lab.
“Agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers . . . Only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal,” said an article in the August 2009 issue of Scientific American.
Biologist Arpad Pusztai had published more than 300 articles and a dozen books when he accidentally discovered that genetically modified crops are dangerous. When he came forward with his findings prior to the study being officially published, Pusztai was fired on the spot. His research team was dismantled, his recommendations were never implemented.
“He was absolutely devastated by the onslaught. They (Monsanto) absolutely annihilated his career,” said Vlieger.
Huber knew full well that that the release of his letter to the press would bring swift rebuke from Monsanto. Even at Purdue University, where he is professor emeritus, six of his former colleagues overtly distanced themselves from his latest action — just as many others have stood by him. More than 800 scientists have signed on to an open letter expressing their concerns about genetically modified crops.
“I understand that I am breaking scientific protocol by stepping outside the bounds of waiting for the peer-reviewed research,” he told me during a phone call on Jan. 30. “In the case of this pathogen, our government cannot afford to wait around for protocol. This is potentially so serious that every minute counts. The risk of waiting to speak out outweighs the risk of the harm to my reputation.”