US scientist that exposed glyphosate dangers to livestock, to speak at Food Matters Aoteroa Feb 2015

Head of USDA suppressing research on Roundup.

Click here to watch Professor Huber's talk.

Click here to watch Professor Huber's talk.

Traditionally we understand that the work of scientists in the public laboratories and universities our tax dollars pay for, is thorough and the research completed with great integrity and thought. 

We understand that with no financial interest in research outcomes, the results we see from these publicly funded institutions are for the benefit of the general public.

So what happens if one of these gatekeepers sounds an alarm which is simply ignored?

In February 2011 an extremely conservative and internationally respected soil scientist, Dr. Don Huber, wrote a letter to Tom Vilsack the US Secretary of Agriculture [1].  He didn’t mean for the letter to be leaked by the USDA but this happened, and the letter became public.

You could say Don Huber’s career is no less than distinguished.  He has a blue chip C.V.. As military scientist, in early years he researched the impact of nuclear warfare, later the impact of fallout on agriculture. While in command of a specialised Strategic Medical Intelligent Detachment (MIDS) he assisted with the formation of what is now, the NCMI.  His final military position was as Associate Director of the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Centre.  Alongside and after this employment he works as Emeritus Professor at Purdue University. [2]

Traditionally Americans call people like Huber a ‘patriot’. He has an extensive service record.

Don Hubers’ work today at Purdue University is in soil science. Huber is an internationally recognized expert on nutrient-disease interactions. 

The letter he wrote to Vilsack described the worrying growth of an organism, a pathogen that is significantly impacting the health of plants, animals and possibly human beings.  He wrote that this pathogen was identified in much higher quantities on Roundup ready soybeans and corn, querying a link with the RR gene or with the presence of Roundup, or glyphosate.  The pathogen was found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.

Veterinarians were coming to Professor Huber because the laboratory tests confirmed that this organism was in a wide variety of livestock experiencing spontaneous abortions and infertility, and it was somehow connected to the feed source.

Huber explained to Vilsack that the pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.

Many of these animals where eating wheatledge, which has a 100mg/kg (or 100ppm) maximum residue level (MRL) of Roundup herbicide (or glyphosate based herbicides – GBH).

Very high Roundup levels may be found on (1) GE/GMO protein meal imported into NZ (2) Desiccation, or pre-harvest sprays on NZ cereals (including wheat), and (3) Animal feed (hay and silage).  Roundup is sprayed on animal feed in NZ to increase its metabolisable energy. On our own cereals (up to 7 days before harvest), to dry off the weeds and mature the harvest.

In 2006 international maximum levels permitted on cereals were increased to reflect this practice.

And while New Zealand has no residue limits on Roundup (or glyphosate based herbicides) on animal feed, in the USA today the federal regulations advise that MRLs for animal feed can be as high as 300mg/kg and 400mg/kg.  [3] The US feed limits provide an indication of how high residues can be. These are levels that demonstrate show toxicity and harm in animal studies.

Just to contrast, the permitted level for soybeans for human consumption is 20mg/kg. [4]

When it comes to the EPA and the toxicity assessments that decide how risky Roundup is, the studies are dominated by one company.  If we consider the last assessment for re-registration of glyphosate, completed in 1990 (dated 1993) you will see, under ‘developmental and reproductive toxicity’, only four research studies.  Every one of these research studies was submitted by Monsanto [5].

None of these research studies for developmental and reproductive toxicity gave the animals doses of glyphosate leading up to pregnancy or in the first trimester of the rodent, the test animal.  

Every chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity study is supplied by Monsanto.  These, and studies by Cheminova and Syngenta, appear to be the studies that the EPA bases their ‘Group E (evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans)’ classification for glyphosate/Roundup.

None of these research studies used the stronger, complete formulation of Roundup that is applied to plants on farms today.  Every international assessment agency in the world only evaluates the pesticide (in this case glyphosate) in its (less effective) pure form. 

There may be plenty of smart scientist and corporate blog types out their choosing to sneer at Don Huber, or simply ignore him.  Get them to show me one single study of the complete formulation of Roundup held with the EPA. Show me one lifetime study held at the levels our farm animals are exposed to every day.

Or with the NZ EPA, or the WHO or Europe's EFSA. 'Our' assessment agencies simply don't want these studies.

There’s a massive data gap.  And scientists unfettered by shareholder demands are trying to fill it.  So snide scientific types go mad – but you are missing the big picture.

And of course, every one of these industry funded studies supplied to the US EPA (also WHO, NZ EPA etc etc) are unavailable to scientists outside of Monsanto & the EPA to read and evaluate.  They are kept secret under commercial confidentiality agreements.   Is that in the national interest?  No oncologist, toxicologist, neurologist working in the public sector can examine them.  Where’s the transparency?  So scientific types who choose to criticise can ask people they love who suffer from long term illness if they would prefer public domain science form the studies that establish our reference dose for pesticides.  Not Monsanto, as is current policy.

Problems in reproductive and development toxicity industry studies include a high maternal death rate [6].  If you take a look at some of the work done by independent scientists outside of the agrichemical industry sponsored studies and you will find problems at much lower MRLs than the Monsanto sponsored studies [7].  If you look at the European toxicity results you will find that the level of 20mg/kg is concerning [8].  And that was an industry study.

Huber has reason to be concerned.  Many people are aware that in general, industry studies tend to find no toxicity at lower levels, when non-industry, or scientists working in the public domain, find danger.  Industry and non-industry studies for Bisphenol A clearly demonstrate this. [9]

Don Huber is a scientist working in the public domain.  In the public interest.   This is the difference. 

Huber is not connected to shareholders.

Huber wrote to Vilsack and explained that these diseases and problems are reaching epidemic proportions and asked Vilsack to bring the USDA in to conduct a multi-agency investigation, and combine that with a moratorium on the deregulation of Roundup ready crops until the relationship with glyphosate can be worked out or ruled out so that greater harm doesn’t happen.

How did Tom Vilsack, the Secretary for Agriculture in the USA respond? 

He did nothing.

Mr Vilsack has repeatedly demonstrated a preference for large industrial farming and genetically modified crops. As Iowa state governor he originated the seed pre-exemption bill which blocked local communities from regulating where GMO crops could be grown.  Mr Vilsack was the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership, and was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, an industry lobbying group. [10]

Why would Tom Vilsack listen to a professor of 50 years standing, highly respected by his peers and follow this one up? 

 It is simply not in Mr. Vilsacks interest.  

And New Zealand follows the same model. The greater bulk of the imported soy/corn/cottonseed protein meal that Kiwi farmers feed to the NZ herd is Roundup Ready. We spray out our silage, pasture top with Roundup and accept Roundup as an important tool in farming. Our farming papers and the NZ EPA avoid this conversation. And then question declining herd fertility.

Glyphosate is the herbicide that Roundup Ready crops can tolerate in the form of Roundup.  It is an essential aid to the biotech industry. 

How do the livestock farmers that are watching animals become infertile, or then abort, become sick through diarrhoea for no apparent reason, seeing malformations,  and facing higher veterinary bills feel about this, or farmers with a lower than expected crop yield ... react?

I think it makes them stressed, depressed and deeply worried.  Because the mainstream agriculture and farming newspapers won’t talk about it.  This conversation simply doesn't happen.  Quietly talk to journalists.  Ask them.

 As of 2014, over two years later, following Huber’s letter to the head of US agriculture, following directions - USDA personnel have not been permitted to be involved. Independent scientists (working in the public interest) have not submitted proposals because of fear that the researchers will be shut down if their efforts become public knowledge (and some have been told by their administrators that they shall not research the area) – but the research is going forward, internationally, with private funding. 

Professor Don Huber: presentation at Food Matters Conference  - 14/15 February 2014, Te Papa, Wellington. 



[1] Letter to Secretary Vilsack from Dr. Huber.   Interview.

[2]  Research, academic and military background of Dr. Don M. Huber.

[3] US GPO:  Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.  Title 40 Protecting the Environment. Section 180.373.


[5]  EPA Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) Glyphosate 1993. PDF

[6] Rodwell, D.E.; Tasker, E.J.; Blair, M.; et al. (1980): Teratology Study in Rabbits: IRDC No. 401-056. MRID 00046363(Unpublished study received May 23, 1980 under 524-308; prepared by International Research and Development Corp., submitted by Monsanto Co., Washington, D.C.; CDL:242516-B)

 [7] Antoniou M, Habib MEM, Howard CV, Jennings RC, Leifert C, et al. (2012) Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence. J Environ Anal Toxicol S4:006. doi:10.4172/2161-0525.S4-006

[8] vom Saal FS, Hughes C 2005. An Extensive New Literature Concerning Low-Dose Effects of Bisphenol A Shows the Need for a New Risk Assessment. Environ Health Perspect 113:926-933.

[9] Roundup & Birth Defects:  Is the public being kept in the dark?

[10] Wikipedia, Tom Vilsack.