A deadly fungus, known as Ug99, which kills
wheat, has likely spread to Pakistan from Africa, according to reports. If
true, that threatens the vital Asian Bread Basket including the Punjab region.
The spread of the deadly virus, stem rust,
against which an effective fungicide does not exist, comes as world grain
stocks reach the lowest in four decades and government subsidized bio-ethanol
production, especially in the USA, Brazil and EU are taking land out of food
production at alarming rates. The deadly fungus is being used by Monsanto and
the US Government to spread patented GMO seeds.
Stem rust is the worst of three rusts that afflict wheat
plants. The fungus grows primarily in the stems, plugging the vascular system
so carbohydrates can't get from the leaves to the grain, which shrivels. Ug99 is a race of stem rust that
blocks the vascular tissues in cereal grains including wheat, oats and barley.
Unlike other rusts that may reduce crop yields, Ug99-infected plants may suffer
up to 100 percent loss.
In the 1950s, the last major outbreak destroyed 40 percent
of the spring wheat crop in North America. At that time governments started a
major effort to breed resistant wheat plants, led by Norman Borlaug of the
Rockefeller Foundation. That was the misnamed Green Revolution. The result
today is far fewer varieties of wheat that might resist such a new fungus
The first strains of Ug99 were detected in 1999 in Uganda.
It spread to Kenya by 2001, to Ethiopia by 2003 and to Yemen when the cyclone
Gonu spread its spores in 2007. Now the deadly fungus has been found in Iran
and according to British scientists may already be as far as Pakistan.
and India account for 20 percent of the annual world wheat production. It is
possible as the fungus spreads that large movements could take place almost
overnight if certain wind conditions prevail at the right time. In 2007, a
three-day wind event recorded by Mexico�s CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center), had strong wind currents moving from Yemen, where Ug99 is
present, across Pakistan and India, going all the way to China. CIMMYT
estimates that from two-thirds to three-quarters of the wheat now planted in
India and Pakistan are highly susceptible to this new strain of stem rust. One
billion people live in this region and they are highly dependent on wheat for
their food supply.
These are all areas where the agricultural infrastructure to
contain such problems is either extremely weak or non-existent. It threatens to
spread into other wheat producing regions of Asia and eventually the entire
world if not checked.
FAO world grain forecast
The 2007 World Agriculture Forecast of the United Nations�
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome projects an alarming trend in
world food supply even in the absence of any devastation from Ug99. The report
states, �Countries in the non-OECD region are expected to continue to
experience a much stronger increase in consumption of agricultural products
than countries in the OECD area. This trend is driven by population and, above
all, income growth -- underpinned by rural migration to higher income urban
areas . . . OECD countries as a group are projected to lose production and
export shares in many commodities . . . Growth in the use of agricultural commodities as feedstock to a rapidly
increasing biofuel industry is one of the main drivers in the outlook and one
of the reasons for international commodity prices to attain a significantly
higher plateau over the outlook period than has been reported in the
previous reports.� [my emphasis --
warns that the explosive growth in acreage used to grow fuels and not food in
the past three years is dramatically changing the outlook for food supply
globally and forcing food prices sharply higher for all foods, from cereals to
sugar to meat and dairy products. The use of cereals, sugar, oilseeds and
vegetable oils to satisfy the needs of a rapidly increasing biofuel industry,
is one of the main drivers, most especially the large volumes of maize in the
US, wheat and rapeseed in the EU and sugar in Brazil for ethanol and bio-diesel
production. This is already causing dramatically higher crop prices, higher
feed costs and sharply higher prices for livestock products.
the current bio-ethanol industry is being driven by US government subsidies and
a scientifically false argument in the EU and USA that bio-ethanol is less
harmful to the environment than petroleum fuels and can reduce C02 emissions.
The arguments have been demonstrated in every respect to be false. The huge
expansion of global acreage now planted to produce biofuels is creating
ecological problems and demanding use of far heavier pesticide spraying while
use of biofuels in autos releases even deadlier emissions than imagined. The
political effect, however, has been a catastrophic shift down in world grain
stocks at the same time the EU and USA have enacted policies which drastically
cut traditional emergency grain reserves. In short, it is a scenario
preprogrammed for catastrophe, one which has been clear to policymakers in the
EU and USA for several years. That can only suggest that such a dramatic crisis
in global food supply is intentional.
A plan to spread GMO?
One of the
consequences of the spread of Ug99 is a campaign by Monsanto Corporation and
other major producers of genetically manipulated plant seeds to promote
wholesale introduction of GMO wheat varieties said to be resistant to the Ug99
fungus. Biologists at Monsanto and at the various GMO laboratories around the
world are working to patent such strains.
Borlaug, the former Rockefeller Foundation head of the Green Revolution, is active
in funding the research to develop a fungus resistant variety against Ug99,
working with his former center in Mexico, the CIMMYT and ICARDA in Kenya, where
the pathogen is now endemic. So far, about 90 percent of the 12,000 lines
tested are susceptible to Ug99. That includes all the major wheat cultivars of
the Middle East and west Asia. At least 80 percent of the 200 varieties sent
from the United States can't cope with infection. The situation is even more
dire for Egypt, Iran, and other countries in immediate peril.
Even if a
new resistant variety were ready to be released today, it would take two or
three years' seed increase in order to have just enough wheat seed for 20
percent of the acres planted to wheat in the world.
also being done by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the same
agency which co-developed Monsanto�s Terminator seed technology. In my book, Seeds
of Destruction, I document the
insidious role of Borlaug and the Rockefeller Foundation in promoting the
misnamed Green Revolution, as well as patents on food seeds to ultimately
control food supplies as a potential political lever. The spreading alarm over
the Ug99 fungus is being used by Monsanto and other GMO agribusiness companies
to demand that the current ban on GMO wheat be lifted to allow spread of GMO
patented wheat seeds on the argument they are Ug99 stem rust resistant.
F. William Engdahl is a geopolitical risk consultant and the author of
"Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of
Genetic Manipulation" (www.globalresearch.ca)
and "A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World
Order" (Pluto Press). He may be contacted at www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.