Our View

It’s been almost three years since retired Purdue University professor Don Huber first publicly claimed a previously unknown organism that thrives in fields treated with glyphosate herbicide is causing spontaneous abortions and infertility in livestock and causing an increase in plant diseases.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Huber urged the USDA to stop approving crops genetically modified to be glyphosate tolerant until his claim could be investigated.

Huber said the microscopic organism could lead to a “general collapse of our critical agriculture infrastructure.”

It was an alarming claim that quickly caught the attention of the media. If substantiated, Huber’s research would have huge implications for farmers across the country who rely on glyphosate-resistant, Roundup Ready crops developed by Monsanto for their livelihoods.

In several interviews with the Capital Press over the years, Huber has refused to offer any proof to back up his claim. We are not alone in wondering if proof exists.

Huber is a serious scientist with an impressive resume. He is well regarded by peers who hold equally impressive credentials. They too are skeptical because they can’t see Huber’s data.

Huber says he has a team of researchers working on the problem, but he won’t identify his collaborators out of fear they will be persecuted. He refuses to identify laboratories that he says have declined to perform the DNA sequencing of the micro organism necessary to continue his research.

“It’s very difficult to even look for it in this country without being threatened to have your lab shut down because you’re a heretic,” he said.

The unsubstantiated implication is that some cabal — presumably involving Monsanto — is preventing the inquiry from moving forward.

But there are so many opponents of GMOs in general, and Monsanto in particular, that it stretches credibility that no allies could be found to aid in the investigation, or a laboratory found willing and able to do the work.

Indeed, scientists we’ve talked to are clamoring to review Huber’s data and give it the rigorous peer review required to substantiate the claim. Assuming they could substantiate the claim, that review in itself would propel the inquiry forward.

Huber continues to decline to make that data public.

Huber recently told the Capital Press that since he sent the letter to Vilsack, the microscopic organism has proliferated and the occurrences of plant diseases and animal abortions are increasing.

If this is true, farmers would be the first to seek alternatives to glyphosate and Roundup Ready crops. But Huber bears the burden of proof.

All of his claims may be legitimate. We can’t prove they are false, but it seems Huber can’t, or won’t, prove that they are true.

Huber says the very future of modern civilization is at stake. If so, he must make his case to his peers, let them see what he has found, and let them judge his data by the rigorous scientific standards he has employed throughout his career.

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