Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Generous Offer to Dr. Huber -Turned Down

This is the beginning of the end of this particular sad tale of fear mongering and misinformation.

Anti-GMO darling Dr. Don M Huber is on a tour of the Sunshine State, giving two talks in Tallahassee and one in Gainesville.  In Tallahassee he got a rock-star's welcome with coverage on the news describing how dangerous GMO food is, and a meeting with politicians.  On my calendar November 12 had a big red circle on it for some time. Huber was in town tonight to tell his story of poison food and deadly new organisms.  I went with one of my favorite organic & sustainable extension/research faculty and had a GREAT time.

I never saw Huber's whole shtick.  It starts out about the failures of biotech and the crisis and danger from glyphosate.  A lot more on the details of his talk later.  Seriously, it was a science abortion.

A significant portion of the presentation addressed his mystery organism.  He allegedly has identified this novel not-quite-a-virus, not-quite-a-fungus plant-animal kingdom-hopping pathogen in 2005, according to his slide.  He attributes this organism to widespread plant harm, problems (like abortion) in cattle and a slide of disorders in humans.  The audience was amazed, a new infectious agent, probably made in the Monsanto dungeon.

The kicky title "Failed Promises; Flawed Science; Interactions of Glyphosate and GMOs on Soil, Plant, Animal & Human Health" a presentation by Dr. Don Huber at the Civic Media Center in Gainesville!

At the end of the talk I was identified in the room by Marty from Florida Organic Growers as someone in favor of biotech and we had a good smile and a certainly civil introduction.  Marty and others don't realize that I support all kinds of low-input ag and defend organic all the time. Still, all very nice.

He asked me if I had any questions for Dr. Huber.  "I have a lot of questions," I said, "But I want to start out with a kind offer."


Here's what happened.

"I offer to sequence the genome of the pathogen and identify what it is," I said.  "If Dr. Huber could kindly give me a small amount of the culture we could identify this new life form before Christmas."

I'm not bluffing here. We could do that.  I could pay to have the libraries made and get several lanes of Illumina sequencing done in a few weeks. We'd get several hundred million 'reads' (small bits of data) that could be computationally assembled into a whole genome of his novel organism, if it actually existed.  If it was real, we could have 300-fold coverage of its sequence.  Completely do-able, and I'd pay for it.

"So can you send me cultures?" I asked.

What do you think his answer was?  After a ten minute talk about the organism and how it is killing cattle and causing problems he said he would not send it.

I said, "Don, you say this is a crisis, that a new pathogen is causing disease in humans and plants, and you won't release it to the broader scientific community for eight years?"

It's tough to read this blurry slide, but my hands were shaking so hard from the blatant abuse of science and deliberate confusing correlation with causation, this is the best I have. I was livid.  he also blamed GMO and glyphosate as the causal agents of Morgellan's, as "agrobacterium has been identified in the muscles of the affected"  Ugh. 

He assured me that he had an international team working on it.  When pressed for collaborator names he said he could not reveal them because they would be threatened.

I said, "But I can solve this mystery in a month. People are dying, kids are suffering... Let's solve this mystery."

He went on to say that if he relinquished the new pathogen that I'd be threatened and others would be too.  I told him to meet me in a parking lot and hand me an unmarked tube, that I'd take the heat, that I am not afraid.  If I was threatened, we'd blow the roof off of the conspiracy.

He shifted gears.

"You can culture it yourself very easily," he said.

At this point people in the Huber-friendly audience were getting annoyed with his evasive nature. "Why can't you just give it to him?" one person asked.

I asked him to send me the culture protocols and instructions on how to isolate it.  He then said that I could probably not isolate it, that it is probably a prion.

THIS WENT ON AND ON FOR 15 MIN.  He's not sharing his finding with the broader scientific community. Period. 

I was frustrated and all he did was deflect and misdirect. I offered again and again to sequence the organism.  He went back and forth about whether it was even an organism, he said at one point that "it has no DNA", said at another point that I could never culture it.  It was 100% obfuscation.

Clearly the audience was seeing through his garbage at this point.  I wish there were 1000 people there to see his slimy gymnastics. One farmer in attendance afterwards said, "If someone is at that put up or shut up point and they keep making excuses of why they can't put up, you know something isn't right."

To add insult to injury I talked to Huber afterwards and asked him about the replication of the "Stunning Corn Comparison" that he finked out on with Vlieger and Ho, after I pressed them for an independent replicate.

"Go do it yourself!" he said as his handler walked him out the door.

The best part is that a room of interested and passionate people got to contrast how garbage science and real science behave in real time.  I offer to do the work, my efforts are blocked with threats of threats, alleged technical impasses, and restricted distribution of the materials-- materials he says cause disease and death.


In the early 1980's a new disease called GRID was infecting many people, primarily IV drug users and men in the gay community.  Scientists sprung to action to identify the source of this horrible pathogen. A few years later after hundreds of international efforts set out to identify the causal agent, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus was identified and published in Science by two independent groups. 1983.  A couple of years, 30 years ago when we didn't have nearly the tools we have today.

Within a few years we knew HIV's epidemiology, the structure of the virus, the way it spread and evaded the immune system.

This is how science works.

Huber has a pathogen he says causes massive human disease and plant death.  He will not release it to the wider scientific community for further tests, even after eight years of no publications or any signs of progress.

But he'll jet set around the nation scaring people into believing his story. This should speak volumes.  It did tonight, and in a room not usually warm to biotechnology.

What I saw him do tonight was scare people for two hours with frightening slides, no controls, speculation, outright bogus claims, flawed logic and straight-up fear.  Concerned heads around me nodded in acceptance, taking his authority as a credible source of information. I was so mad watching him misrepresent science and flat out spread misinformation to an interested audience.

It stops here. I want to shine light on his false claims and starting with his pathogen is step one.  I'm really angry about the distortion of science and the use of science to build fear.  Here comes the science hammer.


Janice said...

It is really hard to see this go on for years and years.... Biofortified and others asked for a chance to see the mysterious organism years ago.

Joni Rose said...

And these folks love coming to Hawaii to peddle more of this nonsense stuff. Lots of uninformed people around here to rile up and make them say the kookiest stuff ever. That's the anti-GMO movement... Keeps people in the dark forever!

HawaiiAgwife said...

I wish you could have been at his presentation here on Kauai recently. The anti gmo crowd fell for it hook line and sinker!

Kevin M. Folta said...

Yes, they love the guy. Many were there nodding away in approval. It's sad because they are sweet people being duped by someone claiming to represent science.

We can change things, and this needs to be a turning point. This distraction needs to go away. If there's something there, let's look at it. If there's nothing there, please stop.

I'm just asking for some honesty.

Michael Powell said...

You say this is all recorded, video and audio, and verifiable. Can you post that? I'm very much on your side in this (this guy sounds like a grade A crackpot), but given that the whole point of this is his unwillingness to show evidence, I figure it's proper that we see your evidence. It'll also make me feel much better about directing my anti-GMO friends and family toward this.

Chuck Lasker said...

Great work. Yes, it's time to stop sitting back and allowing this junk to go on. This isn't a hobby, this isn't just a money-making scheme, this is serious with serious consequences. Let Huber get into real estate get rich quick schemes, and get away from science.

darwys said...

Folks like him are a complete disgrace to science.

Of course he doesn't want his samples tested and identified - he'd lose his cash cow if that should happen. Right now he's riding the high life getting paid to present bullshit and pseudoscience to scientifically illiterate individuals who buy into any conspiracy theory you can put on their plate.

Jay said...

People are afraid of what they don't understand and you can make money on peoples fear. Thanks for seeking out some truth Kevin.

Bucove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My students would very much like to see the video of this interchange- where might they find it? Thank you.

Bucove said...

Withholding a deadly pathogen requires federal intervention and quarantine oversight. Why is the US Government not investigating this bio-terrorist and his secret laboratory full of deadly pathogens?

Teddy Stansly said...

I was at the presentation and must say it was quite interesting to see how the crowd was in awe with the amount of "proof" that was provided, including agrobacteria that has been found to infect humans!

It seems like activists feel its them against the government and huge corporations like monsanto and such, but they don't realize that they are also against academia and some great advances that are still yet to come. The push to stop GMO is unrealistic, instead work on ways to use the technology in your favor. Whats the saying, it is best to swim with the tide that to swim against it.

Anonymous said...

This is really very sad. Person so caught up in the hateful, emotional, fear inducing stuff. Note there are many webistes on the web that claim GMO's are cause of human autoimmune diseases -
but most disturbing is that "loving Christians" - are using a Bible verse LEV 19:19 to support thier total condemnation of GMOs - including human insulin. Dad of three diabetic children from my church was confronted - do you know that is GMO? What you are doing is against God's will ? and you will suffer consenguences ? (okay person told him nicely that he was offended). response - Sorry God's word offends you.

the same - don't mix kinds verse is still used by hate groups (skinheads - Neonazis- etc) to condemn interracial marriage.

Thing are going to get worse before they get better -

Anonymous said...

I commend you on tackling the scientific claims put forth by thw anti-GMO movement.I am anti GMO but not for a presence of a "mysterious pathogen" in truth, I had never heaed such a claim until I read this. I am anti-GMO because I belive technology and pattens should be used in actual inventions. Yes, some would argue that the banana is an invention along with corn, but the way they go about doing things is absolutley 100% unsustainable. You don't need to be a scientist to understand that when you introduce terminator technology, that you (the maker) say could have cross pollinization abilities, The risk far outweighs the benefits to the innovation. Monsanto owning a monopoly on how food grows?? Not to mention they use the FDA like a revolving door. The whole way they do business is a poster child for how capitalism can go horrifingly wrong.

Anonymous said...

But good on you for exposing fear mongering! Keep up the good fight.

James said...

Psst, there's no terminator technology in any of the approved GM crops. The rest of your concerns are business & polically motivated. Those are perfectly valid viewpoints. I'd ask you, why would you through an entire technology under the bus because you disagree with the business practices and political practices of the creators and users of the technology? Why not work to eliminate the poor business practices instead of trying to eliminate a useful technology?

Anonymous said...

Interesting read. Would like to hear the audio or see the video. Please post here or on youtube

Duane Grant, Farmer said...

Thank you very much for the blog! I was on a panel debating the current value and future contribution of GMO's with Don Huber just tonight (11-14-13) in Nampa, Idaho. Huber repeated some of the same outrageous claims referenced in your blog. He also claimed that cows wouldn't eat GMO corn because it contained extraordinarily high levels of fromaldehyde, that GMO corn was causing spontaneous abortions in cattle, alleged that "secret files "of Monsanto contained proof that GMO's were toxic, that genes from transgenic plants could persist in the soil for years and genetically modify future crops... it goes on.

Col. Huber is a crack pot misappropriating the good name of Purdue to confuse and mislead the masses with scientific jargon and psychobabble.

Kevin Folta said...

I have audio, it is almost 3 hours, so I need to distill it down. There is a video of the entire event, including Q&A, that someone took in association with the event. I'm trying to get that and will post

Jane Sooby said...

Who sponsored the event?

bnels said...

As an interested follower of the debate concerning GMO foods, I was made aware of this blog and accessed it out of curiosity. What a joke! I was present at the Sustainability Conference in Nampa yesterday, the one to which Mr. Duane Grant, farmer, referred in his comment above. I attended the panel session on which he sat with Dr. Don Huber and two other presenters. Not only does Mr. Grant attribute comments to Dr. Huber that were never made, but he simply parrots the language of the Monsanto notes he was holding on his lap during the entire panel session, and to which he continually referred in order to participate in the discussion and respond to the questions asked by the audience. Mr. Grant monopolized the conversation and, as he read from his "cheat sheet", had difficulty pronouncing some names and terms, and Dr. Huber quietly and gently helped him with the correct pronunciation. One need only be present at such an event to easily note the grace and sincerity of Dr. Huber as he presents the research and findings which have culminated from his esteemed career as they are in stark contrast to the utter lack of integrity and truth displayed by those who oppose his efforts to educate both scientists and consumers alike. As one present at the event last evening, I can attest that the statements made in Mr. Grant's comment above are entirely false. He appears to be simply another puppet of the Monsanto-led efforts to quiet any seeker of truth as it regards the safety of our food and the future of our human and animal health. The blatant disregard for truth evidenced in this blog and in the comments of the blogger's followers discredits true science and renders anything cited here lacking in credibility. Thank goodness there are courageous people such as Dr. Huber willing to present the facts in the face of such ugly, profit-motivated opposition.

Anonymous said...

"Dear Mr. Grant, What a surprise to read your comment on Kevin Folta's blog. I attended the meeting in Nampa, Idaho which you describe in your blog comment, and I listened to your "party line" responses. When I first read your comment, I wondered if it was the same meeting and panel I had attended because I never heard Dr. Huber mention cows or Monsanto. I was disappointed that you had plenty of time to present your views but Dr. Huber was not provided equal opportunity. Your comments are misrepresented and out of context. It is good to know the integrity of those who represent my sugar program."

Tim Chestnut said...

We went through the GMO labeling bill in Wash State. Vlieger came here with his misinformation campaign as well. These guys have gotten away with their war on science so far. One speaker here likened genetically altering palnts to sodomy!
Thanks for your efforts to galvanize the scientific community against these frauds!!

Unknown said...

Kevin, Huber could serve as a precautionary tale about what happens to some college professors when they retire, and are no longer getting all the attention they are accustomed to. Maybe the scary prions have invaded his brain.

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Benn Hadd said...

I did get to listen to a toxicologist make some comments at a meeting this week. He said the roundup gene changes the DNA in you body for 3-4 generations. And it is causing infertility in humans. It is also affecting the hormones in the body, which can cause gender issues with embryos. Also this study on hogs could be whats happening to humans, because our digestive systems are similiar. Notice the discussion of the gene affect on the pigs stomach, uterine weights, and stomach inflammation.

In this study, we found that female pigs fed the GM diet had median uterine weights that
were 25% greater than non-GM-fed pigs (p=0.025). This result is attributed to the
difference in diet as other variables were controlled for, including the presence of
mycotoxins, and possible confounders such as infectious diseases, animal husbandry
considerations and various forms of bias such as temporal, between-person,
measurement or recording bias, as these were all controlled-for. The concentration of
mycotoxins in the feed was insignificant, both dietary groups received the same nutrients
and care, the care complied with industry standards, and all those doing laboratory
analyses and weighing, caring for, slaughtering and doing autopsies on pigs were blinded
as to the dietary group of each pig.
The reported difference in uterine weight warrants further investigation in future studies
because such a biologically significant difference in uterine weights may reflect
endometrial hyperplasia or carcinoma, endometritis, endometriosis, adenomyosis,
inflammation, a thickening of the myometrium, or the presence of polyps. The uteri from
two GM-fed pigs were full of fluid compared to nil from non-GM-fed pigs (Table 3) which
may be linked to pathology. The link between an increase in uterine weights and GM
feeding is supported by other authors (Brasil et al., 2009) who found that GM soy-fed rats
had a statistically significant 59% increase in the density of the uterine endometrial
glandular epithelium compared to rats fed an equivalent organic soy diet. Further studies
should include histology, blood oestrogen, progesterone and cytokine concentrations, and
which GM crop(s) and their GM protein products may, or may not, be involved. As this
study used neutered males, further studies are required to investigate any potential effect
of these crops on male reproduction. Multigenerational reproductive studies should also
be considered.
In this study, a diet of GM feed had no effect on stomach erosions or ulceration but had a
significant effect on inflammation. Pigs fed the mixed GM soy and GM corn diet showed
2.6 times the rate of severe stomach inflammation compared to non-GM fed pigs. This
biologically significant finding was statistically significant (p=0.004). GM-fed male pigs
showed severe stomach inflammation at a rate of 4.0 times that of the non GM fed male
pigs (p=0.041); and female pigs showed a rate of severe stomach inflammation that was
2.2 the rate of the non-GM fed female pigs (p=0.034).
The pig industry uses finely-ground feed to maximise feed efficiency which can increase
inflammation and ulceration of the stomach (Wolf, 2010). We therefore controlled the
grind size, removing it as a confounder. Hence our results show that these GM crops
were associated with stomach inflammation that was additional to any that may be
caused by particle size. The result is attributed to the difference in diet, since the
presence of mycotoxins, possible confounders such as infectious diseases, animal
husbandry considerations or temporal, between-person, measurement and recording bias
were controlled across the two groups.

Benn Hadd said...

One explanation for the inflammation results could lie with the Cry 3Bb1 and Cry 1Ab
proteins that these GM corn varieties are engineered to produce. They act as insecticides
by inducing pore formation and disintegration of the gut tissue (Spok et al., 2007) of
certain grubs that attack corn plants. It has been argued that these proteins cannot harm
the gastrointestinal tract of mammals because mammals lack the necessary gut
environment and receptors (ANZFA, 2000). However, Vazquez-Padron et al. (2000) found
six proteins in the mouse small intestine that could bind to a Cry protein (Cry 1Ac).
Furthermore, when the Cry protein bound to these proteins, it resulted in
hyperpolarisation of the intestine, which is consistent with the formation of cationic
channels, as occurs in the insect gut (Vazquez-Padron et al., 2000). In addition, an
independent in vivo study found structural changes and hyperplasia in the ileum of mice
fed a Cry protein for two weeks (Fares & El-Sayed, 1998). Chowdhury et al. (2003) and
Walsh et al. (2012b) found the Cry1Ab protein (which was present in the feed in our
study) throughout the digestive tract of pigs. Chowdhury et al. (2003) found the protein
(and sections of the gene that codes for it) in the stomach, duodenum, ileum, caecum
and rectum of pigs fed Bt11 corn for four weeks, while Walsh et al. (2012b) found the
protein in the stomach, caecum and colon of pigs fed MON810 corn for 110 days (they appear not to have looked in the rectum), indicating that this protein is resistant to
digestion in pigs. In our study, stomach inflammation may be due to one or both of the
Cry proteins fed in the study and future studies may provide answers.
The findings in this study are conservative since the non-GM diet pigs were exposed,
albeit minimally, to potential GMO impacts. The presence of small amounts of GM
material in the non-GM feed, using out-bred animals, piglets from GM-fed sows, and
performing the study in a commercial setting (including the potential exposure of the pigs
to any infectious diseases common to US commercial pigs and taking blood on site)
could be expected to reduce any differences between the two dietary groups.
We found that our key findings were not reflected in the standard biochemical tests often
undertaken by researchers in this area, probably because such tests provide a poor
measure of inflammation and matters associated with uterine size. We suggest that the
following may be better measures: the red blood cell count and haematocrit to measure
anaemia and iron deficiency from possible blood loss, C-reactive protein and white blood
cell count to measure inflammation, and oestrogen and progesterone.
In addition, if an autopsy is done at the end of a GM crop feeding experiment, this often
involves only a visual inspection of the exterior of organs without weighing them.
However by weighing organs we found a significant 25% increase in uterine weights in
the GM-fed pigs. Moreover, where organs are weighed in such studies, they are often not
examined internally (Carman, 2004) and such an approach would preclude finding the
stomach inflammation reported in the present study.
The present study is an observational study of the action of a mixture of GM crops on the
health of pigs, versus a comparable non-GM diet. Future work will investigate individual
GM crops, will involve histopathology, and will consider mechanisms for reported group

Benn Hadd said...

Pigs fed a GMO diet exhibited heavier uteri and a higher rate of severe stomach
inflammation than pigs fed a comparable non-GMO diet. Given the widespread use of
GMO feed for livestock as well as humans this is a cause for concern. The results
indicate that it would be prudent for GM crops that are destined for human food and
animal feed, including stacked GM crops, to undergo long-term animal feeding studies
preferably before commercial planting, particularly for toxicological and reproductive
effects. Humans have a similar gastrointestinal tract to pigs, and these GM crops are
widely consumed by people, particularly in the USA, so it would be be prudent to
determine if the findings of this of this study are applicable to humans

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Anonymous said...

The pig study is junk as reviewed by peer scientists.

Rick Leonard said...

could you please summarize the points made in the source and provide link or citation rather than copy and paste whole sections of text. First, I'd like to know that you are an interested reader, not someone from GMO Free USA (the cutting and pasting of other writings seems to be their MO. I'm more interested in your take and interpretation and I'd like to have some idea that you understand what you are pasting and have the ability to defend it. I'd like to also be able to read the original source you copied and check their citations and and research cited to see if I would agree with their interpreteation and to see if there have been critiques of both theclaims made in the source you copied or the primary sources.

It appears you pasted text from the Carmen study. I have read the study as well as several critiques of it. Did you know that the study observed a dea5h rate of over 12% for both ge fed and contol (non ge fed) and represented this as normal death rate. This might have been normal 100 years ago, but that about 3 X normal today. That tells me that there was something going on with all the hogs that had nothing to do with ge corn. Did you know the study you throw in our face found less incidence of inflamation in ge-fed hogs than non-ge (actually, we don't know if there was actually any inflamation since the study didn't confirm it, just claimed based on eyeballed "redness" judgements). In fact, there are a lot of so called findings from this study you pasted that would actually suggest ge was protecctive.

Not impressed with the cut and paste assault.