Thursday, November 12, 2020

Dr. Don Huber's Mystery Organism - A Legacy of Disinformation

Back before calling out disinformation was fashionable, I was busting biotech charlatans for lying about science to satisfy their personal agendas. 
 
It was seven years ago today that Dr. Don Huber, Emeritus Professor of Purdue University, stood in front of a room of people and scared the hell out of them. I was in the room. His stream of disinformation was disgusting, deliberately and intentionally lying to an audience assembled to learn about food and new technology. 

You can read about the event in detail here

At the event he reiterated his claims of a new organism he had isolated from "GMO" crops-- a deadly "virus-like fungus" or "microfungus" that killed plants, caused disease in people and triggered spontaneous abortion in livestock.  The audience was aghast, with audible discomfort in the room. 


Not "scientists" but one unscrupulous scientist that intentionally fabricated a story to influence public perception and sway federal policy.



Long-story short, during the Q&A I asked him if I could obtain a sample, sequence its DNA, and reveal the nature of the organism and stop the crisis. 

After a long, rambling retreat, he said that he and his team in China (yes, China) were sequencing the genome and would release the results shortly.  He refused to accept my generous offer. 

Seven years later... crickets. 

This is the same deadly organism that Dr. Huber reported to US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.  He wrote it from his position of authority as a university professor, and noted his military service. He claimed that it was a "pathogen of high-risk status" and "should be treated as an emergency."


 From Cooking Up a Story - A synopsis of the Huber letter to Vilsack

This established expert attempts to mobilize the resources of the United States of America to address a problem that only he can see, a move motivated by his anti-biotech views and a vendetta against a company.  It also was claimed to be caused by glyphosate, making it an harbinger of the future false claims made against the compound.

Seven years after I offered to help him solve this national emergency, there is still no news of progress on the deadly pathogen. 

Because he made it up.  He lied to the US Ag Secretary and millions of people to scare them away from modern farm technology. 

He also went after me personally, sending a brutal letter to my university, condemning my audacity to ask him questions, and explaining that I was "aggressive" and off base how I treated him.  I was nothing other than polite, as was revealed to my boss on audio recordings. 

So this is personal.  I want to hold him accountable, I want the public to not forget his lies.  He intentionally provided false information to influence public perception and policy around agriculture. 

While he had a solid career as a scientist, his disinformation and hostility towards the scientists that held him accountable should be the centerpiece of his legacy.