The fungus (Puccinia graminis), also called a stem rust, mysteriously appeared in Uganda in 1999 and has been spreading rapidly throughout Africa and in 2007 it jumped to Asia.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Office claims that a quarter of the world’s global wheat harvest is currently threatened by the fungus. Many claim that it is only a matter of time before the wheat ‘rust’ reaches the vast wheat fields of North America and Russia.
In 2007, the father of industrial farming, Norman Borlaug, warned “This thing has immense potential for social and human destruction.” Borlaug failed to mention that he is partially responsible for the looming disaster. It was he who helped eliminate wheat diversity and pushed farmers around the world to plant wheat varieties that required massive doses of chemicals which had little resistence to disease. However, Borlaug is also credited for the development of a strain of wheat resistent to stem rust.
Decades of spraying crops with ever more toxic chemicals has produced a wide range of super-diseases that are resistent to all the chemicals that the agro-chemical industry can now throw at them.
Wheat stem rust is nothing new, even the Romans prayed to a stem rust god, Robigus, to protect their wheat crops from the disease. In 1954 wheat rust wiped out 40 per cent of the US crop. The US and the Soviet Union stockpiled stem rust spores as biological weapons.
Conventional breeding has produced some strains resistent to Ug99 but it won’t be possible to grow enough of it to provide seeds to make a difference for several years.
Monsanto and other agro-chemical companies have been pushing their patented genetically engineered wheat for years but have met stronge resistance from farmers and environmentalists.
In 2008 Germany will host the first open-air test plots of genetically engineered wheat.
It is certainly not beyond Monsanto to secretly introduce a virulent strain of wheat rust to ensure that acceptance of another one of its patented horrors. The company has a long history of heinous crimes and is perhaps the most amoral corporation on the planet.
Monsanto and other agro-chemical companies got their start making weapons used in WW I. Monsanto has brought the world some of the most toxic chemicals ever conceived such as DDT, Dioxin, PCBs, agent orange and aspartame and continually lied about their toxicity.
The company was partially responsible for the ban against hemp so that it could sell polyester. Hemp is superior to most textiles and posed an obstacle to the acceptance of polyester.
Monsanto was fined US$1.5 million for bribing at least 140 Indonesian government officials and their family members between 1997 and 2002.
In Times Beach, Missouri, 2,000 residents has to be permanently relocated because their town was so contaminated by dioxin from Monsanto.
In Anniston, Alabama, Monsanto dumped massive amounts of PCBs into a local river for more than 10 years and was eventually convicted of “negligence, wantonness, suppression of the truth, nuisance, trespass and outrage”.
In 1966, Monsanto managers discovered that fish dunked in a local creek turned belly-up within 10 seconds, spurting blood and shedding skin as if dunked into boiling water. Yet, the dumped even more PCBs into the creek and kept quiet about what they were doing.
Monsanto knew that PCBs were highly toxic and were killing local residents but it simply didn’t care. Profits were always more important than human lives or the environment.
Given that most of Africa’s wheat crop is likely to fail this year from the disease, Monsanto will be pushing hard for acceptance of its genetically engineered wheat and a lot more people will be willing to accept it. There is nothing like a good famine to change people’s minds.
The world should certainly resist accepting genetically engineered wheat. Other genetically engineered crops have proven to be harmful to the environment and to human health. Once farmers start growing GE crops it is virtually impossible for them to go back to non-GE varieties and they remain dependent upon a patented seed-chemical package that grows ever more expensive and problematic.