Just two weeks before the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) fully deregulated Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa, a senior soil scientist alerted the department about a newly discovered, microscopic pathogen found in high concentrations of Roundup Ready corn and soy that researchers believe could be causing infertility in livestock and diseases in crops that could threaten the entire domestic food supply.
Dr. Don Huber, a plant pathologist and retired Purdue University professor, wrote in a letter to the USDA that the pathogen is new to science and appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably humans.
"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," Huber wrote in his January 16 letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
"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."
The pathogen is about the size of a virus and reproduces like a micro-fungal organism. According to Huber, the organism may be the first micro-fungus of its kind ever discovered, and there is evidence that the infectious pathogen causes diseases in both plants and animals, which is very rare.
The pathogen is prevalent in soy crops suffering from a disease called sudden death syndrome and corn crops suffering from Goss' wilt disease.
Laboratory tests show that the pathogen is present in a "wide variety" of livestock suffering from infertility and spontaneous abortions. Huber warned that the pathogen could be responsible for reports of increased infertility rates in dairy cows and rates of spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45 percent.
"We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders," Huber wrote. "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."