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There are days, when I read something in the headlines of the news, and I have to pinch myself. This is one of those times.

"Genetically Modified" Bermuda Grass is blamed for the deaths of 15 head of cattle, after producing Cyanide gas.

I really want a lot more details on this story. It has already hit some of the other e-mail forums I am on, so I have no doubt this will go viral.

Will this be a GIGANTIC, "I TOLD YOU SO!" moment for those against Genetically Modified Foods?

And can this happen with other crops? And under what circumstances?

In addition to scaring the crap out of any normal, thinking person, this scenario generates a whole lot of questions.

In the CBS story, it is conveyed that this particular kind of grass had been grown in that field for years and that the cows had been feeding on that grass for some time. And that this whole new, "With Cyanide On Top" death sundae, was a recent development.

Tifton 85 is the brand name of this GM-Bermuda Grass.

It looks to me as if the major attributes of this particular kind of grass is it's ability to withstand the extreme heat and cold found on the central plains, and it is drought tolerant. It appears to be a popular grass for making hay for livestock and for grazing.

"When our trainer first heard the bellowing, he thought our pregnant heifer may be having a calf or something," said Abel. "But when he got down here, virtually all of the steers and heifers were on the ground. Some were already dead, and the others were already in convulsions."

Within hours, 15 of the 18 cattle were dead. CBS

I found other stories: Cattle Gain Faster on Tifton 85; New Bermuda Grass has Enhanced Digestibility.

Why? What makes it more digestible that regular grass?

And when these articles refer to this as a "Hybrid" and then a GMO--I am confused.

When I think of Genetically Modified Organisms, I am thinking recombinant DNA, mysterious microscopic things that happen in a lab, such as a tomato with a fish gene.

When I think of a classic, hybrid plant, I am thinking of Cross Pollination, maybe a graft, but mostly cross pollination.

I get very upset when certain parties try to pass a tomato with a fish gene off as a "Hybrid" when clearly it is a lab bred GMO, after all, Fish cannot mate with Tomatoes and Tomatoes cannot cross pollinate with fish.

So Which is it? Is Tifton 85 a primarily a GMO or a Hybrid? And if it is a GMO, then I want to know what gene sequence lead to it suddenly out-gassing cyanide. How does that happen?

It appears thus far, that Tifton 85 is a F1 Hybrid. I find this ironic, because right now people are up in arms about this being a Genetically Modified issue. Other forums around the web are going on and on about the "Ignorance of the masses" regarding what this grass is or is not, and what constitutes a GMO as opposed to a Hybrid.

Well, thank your *shills folks for that one. There has been a concerted effort to liken GMOs to plants bred from Hybridization, in order to mitigate the negative press and the negative feelings many folks have about mucking around indiscriminately with the genetic building blocks of  life.

So perhaps that part of the story is a blessing in disguise, that will force certain corporate interests to be more specific with their language, as in more accurate.

I think of this mechanism as a form of diffusing the anger and mistrust toward GMOs, by mislabeling GMOs as something completely harmless like a hybrid.

Tell that to the people dealing with Super Weeds and Super Bugs.

But back to the story:

Preliminary tests revealed the Tifton 85 grass, which has been here for years, had suddenly started producing cyanide gas, poisoning the cattle.

"Coming off the drought that we had the last two years ... we're concerned it was a combination of events that led us to this," Dr. Gary Warner, an Elgin veterinarian and cattle specialist who conducted the 15 necropsies, told Kelly.

What is more worrisome: Other farmers have tested their Tifton 85 grass, and several in Bastrop County have found their fields are also toxic with cyanide. However, no other cattle have died.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are dissecting the grass to determine if there might have been some strange, unexpected mutation. CBS

Cyanide issues can arise when storms knock down leaves of trees like cherry ornamental almonds or maple where animals might eat them. So is that where the genes in the grass come from? The Prunus Genus?
The plants contain no more than trace amounts of hydrogen cyanide, but on decomposition after crushing and exposure to air or on digestion, poisonous amounts may be generated. Wikipedia Prunus
Other forage has been known to produce cyanide under certain situations:

Other sources of Cyanide poisoning for grazing livestock:

Prunus, Sorghum, Triglocin, Johnson Grass, Sudan Grass, Arrow Grass.

See the Merck Vet Manual on Cyanide Poisoning

Though this appears that the poisoning doesn't happen so quickly. The animals in this manual, are eventually starved of oxygen. What the news story described, on the other hand, sounded like it was instantaneous. The cows in the CBS story died within hours of grazing on this Tifton 85 grass.

According to other stories, the Tifton 85 is an F1 Hybrid and not a GMO.

I will be interested to see how this story develops in the near future.

Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 4:38 AM PT: Sorry I didn't get to it sooner, but last night, CBS updated this story and retracted the statement that this turf was an GMO and confirmed that it is an F1 Hybrid.

I would still like to know how this form of poison on the turf became so potent to so many cows at once, so quickly. To me the whole thing reads like a CSI plot, only with cows instead of people.

Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 9:03 AM PT: Check out this update on the story brought to my attention by GAmama4

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Comment Preferences

  •  Oh, I think you forgot about FLYING fish... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fish cannot mate with Tomatoes and Tomatoes cannot cross pollinate with fish.

    Ideology is when you know the answers before you know the questions.
    It is what grows into empty spaces where intelligence has died.

    by Alden on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 02:55:55 PM PDT

  •  Yeah we sure wouldn't want no hardy tomatoes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    the fan man, sagesource, hnichols, kyril
    When I think of Genetically Modified Organisms, I am thinking recombinant DNA, mysterious microscopic things that happen in a lab, such as a tomato with a fish gene.
    Scary.  Real scary to think of monster tomatoes growing in the cold and tasting like tomatoes.

    The experiment failed incidentally but the scare goes on and on.

    What is real scary is tomatoes and grass and trees and animals and [God help us] sterile hybrids that all bananas are  that have been "hypusinated."

    Hypusine is an unusual amino acid found in all eukaryotes and in some archaea
    Lord God Almighty, Mother Nature has been trying for eons to extinguish that horrible gene so that us weaklings can hang on to our earth and keep the monsters away.  One hypusinated mouse killed his own lung cancer and now they are trying to kill other cancers and diseases with that terrible threat to nature.

    Keep up the good fight against science.

    Best,  Terry

    •  Yes, yes, I know hypusine is the protein (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hnichols, kyril

      produced by "evil" genes in all plants and animals and make them too damn hardy.  

      Sorry for inferring it was a gene.

      Best,  Terry

    •  I grow Hardy Tomatoes all the time, they are (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      called open pollinated Heirlooms and I would say that they taste better, but that doesn't do them justice. Because really the miracle is that, in comparison to store bought "Fish-Tomatoes" they have a flavor. Period.

      I paid [in the store bought tomato world, an arm and a leg" for organic, Purple Cherokee Tomatoes this weekend, to make our big sandwiches we love so much in the heat of summer.

      It was worth every penny of it. Unlike pink, smooth tomatoes that are sold in the store, that ripen in a box with a thick skin, these had some blemishes on them.

      Their skin was thinner. They had lobes and folds, and their color was anything but uniform.

      And they tasted like liquid sunshine on the vine.

      •  Certainly there are very hardy tomatoes (0+ / 0-)

        though I am surprised yours were so tasty.  Ours were mediocre at best in taste.

        The GMO tomatoes were attempting to set new records for enduring cold.  All I know is experiments with the fish gene were a disaster.

        Best,  Terry

        •  My suggestion is that you try growing (0+ / 0-)

          Sungolds, or Black Krims or Purple Cherokees, though I have had excellent luck with Mortgage Lifters, Rutgers, and Brandywines if you prefer traditional red tomatoes.

          Be sure and plant basil next to your tomatoes, because they take on some of that flavor.

          •  All I am growing these days is old :-( n/t (0+ / 0-)
            •  Then get some containers and explore (0+ / 0-)

              Container gardening on the balcony or porch.

              I just planted 4 new squash plants. They smell so good! I wish there was perfume that smelled like that.

              •  The house livestock does a job on plastic plants, (0+ / 0-)

                not to mention inventory.  It is rather unpleasant to think of what they would do to pretty living plantings.

                I am sure your gardens and plants are a delight.  I have seen a community garden in a spruced-up erstwhile slum in St. Louis that was an absolute marvel.  It was a most refreshing break from depressing conditions generally.

                Thank you for a break to pleasant thoughts of the past.

                Best,  Terry

                •  My gardens produce, but they are messy (0+ / 0-)

                  Not that it really bothers me.

                  I like to plant flowers around my produce to attract pollinators and also to provide shade in the high summer.

                  I get it though, what you are talking about.

                  •  We have an antique business that (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    is in constant motion with inventory moving in and out.  We do not wish to be a museum.  

                    It does not always go well with cats and dogs.  

                    There is only so much room on top of the refrigerator and even that isn't safe.  In fact that is where we keep the scratching pad.

                    Plastic flower pots can get upset no matter where we put them.

                    I can still remember my mother getting a wee bit upset when my father ran a herd of horses he had just bought through her garden.

                    Trying to keep potted plants and trays around here would be like an African farmer having herds of elephants going through his garden.

                    I don't even like to think about it.  My hearing is bad enough now.

                    Best,  Terry

  •  Inhalation vs digestion (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, JesseCW, blueoasis, KenBee, boophus, Ashaman

    gets you very different rates of poisoning. It takes very little cyanide (as hydrogen-, potassium- or sodium- cyanide) to kill when digested and will do so in minutes. As a gas- hydrogen cyanide- it takes a lot more to kill that fast by inhalation.

    I know fresh leaves of those kinds of trees (also- apple), are not a problem for herbivores. My llama & goats strip all they can reach. But they don't eat the fallen ones. Simpler cyanide compounds are created by decomposition. Even then, a small amount usually creates discomfort, teaching the animal to avoid it.

    So this grass sounds like it is producing a digestible cyanide compound, likely a salt, when in the stomach of a cow (acidic). That's not really hard to do, given the salts available in biologic things. I don't think it's possible to created enough inhalable toxic gas from a field of grass to kill cows. Cyanide compounds are important parts of biologic processes but you just don't need that much.

    Which means I have some issues with the reporting in the article, namely stating it's cyanide gas, because then they should be evacuating everyone downwind, right? (sarcasm) It's also a bit skimpy in other ways but pretty typical news reporting.

    Whether its GMO or hybridization, I really do think our abilities in those areas have outstripped our ethical prudence, due to the big corporate to the bottom line over the possible dangers. I don't think even this will do much to curb the enthusiasm. It's all cloaked in "increasing yields to feed the world". But that's "feed today" and not thinking forward about how the changes of species will ripple through the environmental chain sustaining humans. Prudent is not a word they want to apply to the bottom line.

    I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

    by WiseFerret on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 03:15:16 PM PDT

    •  "increasing yields to feed the world" is mostly (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi, blueoasis, DawnN, boophus, HamdenRice, Joieau

      just hype.

      It's much more about "increasing sales of our products"  -whether that's seed that cannot be saved for the next season, or herbicide or pesticide or fertilizer the plant in question is altered to tolerate.

      It is, very often, purely about lower labor input.

      Thinking the "food stamp challenge" teaches you about being poor is like thinking a camping trip will give you insight into being homeless.

      by JesseCW on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 03:28:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Toleration (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sagesource, hnichols
        or herbicide or pesticide or fertilizer the plant in question is altered to tolerate.
        Or natural resistance to pests, disease and ability to thrive on poor soil without fertilizers and other chemicals that is engineered into plants with their own rare genes.

        What a horror that is!

        Science is the bane of humans.

        Best,  Terry

        •  Don't bother to respond to anything I actually (0+ / 0-)


          Just wave your hands in the air and pretend I'm doing the same.

          Thinking the "food stamp challenge" teaches you about being poor is like thinking a camping trip will give you insight into being homeless.

          by JesseCW on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 04:04:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I did respond, Jesse (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Would it have been better if I said you were lying?  I don't think you were but rather simply believe in spite of evidence to the contrary.

            I have shown any number of times plants with their own natural genes inserted that survive when their identical twins die.

            Dead plants aren't productive.  Live plants are.

            You want to quarrel with science, demonstrated proof?  

            As you wish.

            And no I am paid by no one to pump their evil doing.  I have far more reason than most to despise Monsanto in particular.  I got to breathe their pollution for years in St. Louis.

            Best,  Terry

            •  Defending yourself against accusations of shilling (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DawnN, boophus

              that no one has launched is a very, very odd thing to do.

              The facts are not complicated - the vast majority of GMO seeds sold do not produce higher yields than their traditional hybrid competition.  They simply produce with a lower labor input, or they produce their own pesticides rather than needing pesticides to be applied.

              This is simple, basic, fact.  Following the Cass Sunstein playbook and pretending it's some sort of "anti-science" position doesn't change that.

              Smearing the people who disagree with you isn't actually an argument.

              The promises of GMO crops have been no more realized than the promises of the nuclear industry in the 1950's.  

              Their adoption has not alleviated famine or malnutrition.  It has not served to protect people in drought prone areas from starvation.  It has certainly not reduced the cash price of foods on the world market.

              It has reduced the demand for farm labor in the industrialized world - and that's about it.

              Telling the truth about it isn't "anti-science", anymore than telling the truth about the nuclear industry is "anti-science".

              Thinking the "food stamp challenge" teaches you about being poor is like thinking a camping trip will give you insight into being homeless.

              by JesseCW on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 04:37:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Maybe Prevent Defense Is A Bum Idea (0+ / 0-)

                True, you have not charged me with shilling but I usually am by those who refuse to respond to me appropriately.

                the vast majority of GMO seeds sold do not produce higher yields
                Quite possibly true but beside the point.  I am not proposing that the "great majority of seeds allowed on the market" are even desirable.

                I am pointing out the science, not its use or abuse.

                Genetic engineering is widely used in medicine and elsewhere and yet it is only in agriculture where it is impeded.  Even the germ warriors are under no constraints.

                Only in agriculture is the science denied with a plethora of false information and scare talk based on fantasy and falsehood.

                Following the Cass Sunstein playbook
                I haven't the foggiest notion who Cass Sunstein might be and don't care.

                I address the science of genetic engineering and get this sort of thing.  

                Denying the science sure sounds "anti-science" to me.

                The promise of GMO crops has not been realized perhaps because promising GM crops have not been allowed on the market.  

                Instead there are screams of frankenstein foods and other nonsense.  There never was a frankenstein.

                Are you listening?  I know you to be capable.

                I have no interest in developing crops that resist Monsanto's or Dow's poisons so they can poison the earth some more.  I am interested in crops that need no poisons to grow and thrive where others can't.

                There are such crops possible but they can't get to market because of superstitious nonsense.

                Best,  Terry

                •  Arguing that transnationals have for years (0+ / 0-)

                  made dangerous leather substitutes that out-gas toxic fumes does not mean someone is "anti science" and has an irrational fear and hatred of synthetic fabrics.

                  Not believing without question everything said by the manufacturer of leather substitutes does not mean someone is a conspiracy nut.

                  Insisting on pointing out the fact that leather substitutes have mostly been created only for the purpose of increasing profits, and have generally not served any public good, does not have anything to do with "denying the science".

                  You do not "argue the science".  At least, I've never seen you.

                  All you do is smear anyone who points out that your panaceas do not exist.

                  It is exactly like arguing with a press release from the IAEA, printed in 1955, about whether radiation might pose health risks and whether it might not really provide energy too cheap to meter.

                  Thinking the "food stamp challenge" teaches you about being poor is like thinking a camping trip will give you insight into being homeless.

                  by JesseCW on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 09:56:57 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  My "Panaceas" Do Exist (0+ / 0-)

                    All one need do is look:

                    Image Hosted by
                    By terryhallinan at 2010-01-24

                    The lefties are identical to the dead wingers except for the strong gene.

                    Dead plants are not productive.

                    Believe it or not.

                    Have a great life despite your fearful fantasies and hatred of science.

                    I think my livestock [dogs] are very happy there are leather imitations.  Not something I care to discuss here.

                    Best,  Terry

              •  LOL, Cass Sunstein! (0+ / 0-)


        •  That is percisely the kind of changes (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoasis, DawnN, boophus

          that are being done without consideration to how that affects the ecosystem.

          That is a problem. A very big problem.

          All they see is the $$ to be made by exploiting delicately balanced ecosystems. Nevermind that there is likely a valid reason the area does not support more. Nevermind that it can only support this additional use in the short term.

          Humans are the bane of humans. Science is only a tool.

          I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

          by WiseFerret on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 04:26:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yup! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Humans are the bane of humans. Science is only a tool.
            And the law of unintended consequences is often ignored!

            I kinda screwed up with a careless uprate so (for now?) I'm a "No Rate" pariah. So when I give a comment "+110% n/t", please consider that a recommend. (That's my workaround fix to participating in this community!)

            by The Angry Architect on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 06:45:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  'Natural' resistance to (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DawnN, boophus

          pests via expression of Bt toxins in every cell of a plant? That's not 'natural' at all, as humans have never been exposed to those toxins before. I know I sure don't want to eat ANY Bt cultivars, nor will I feed them to my family. I don't care what Monsanto's employees - and ex-employees they routinely lend to run the FDA/USDA - say about it.

          And before you make the deceptive claim that Bacillus thuringiensis (closely related to anthrax) is an approved pesticide for organic crops, don't assume no one here understands the difference between dormant Bt as spores and protease-derived crystalline [Cry] toxins, and the toxins those spores/crystals DO NOT release until and unless an insect in its target group ingests it. With Bt GMO cultivars, we (or the livestock we feed them to) are ingesting the toxin in every cell of the food item.

          Too bad Monsanto, et al. don't want us to have the right to know if GMO cultivars are in processed foods we purchase or in the produce section at the grocery store. I think that's fundamentally dishonest and a violation of a very basic human right. Fortunately, we CAN know that certain brands are organic and/or non-GMO, and even the big grocery chains in my area reserve the bulk of their produce sections for locally grown and/or organic. Because their customers wanted it and have proven they'll readily buy it.

          •  Stop Twistig My Words Please (0+ / 0-)
            'Natural' resistance to pests via expression of Bt toxins in every cell of a plant?
            Plants have forms of resistance to predators, disease and environmental stress like all life.  Poisoning predators is just one type of resistance and hardly the most successful.

            My favorite defense is robust good health.

            That can be inserted into plants and animals with rare genes that create hypusine, a rare protein that produces superior plants and animals.

            Now would you rather discuss rare good health or poison?

            Up to you.

            Best,  Terry

            •  Not 'twisting', I was asking. (0+ / 0-)

              You could simply have clarified. I have seen pro-GMO folks make the assertion described above dozens of times, so that's why I asked if that's where you were coming from about 'natural' resistance.

              Yes, there are strains of plant species that have naturally developed resistance to their most common pests, growing conditions, etc. Often crossing those with more desirable agricultural versions produces hybrids with both qualities. That has been done for millennia to improve food crops. Inserting transgenes from whole different species - even whole different kingdoms - using viral DNA to 'break' natural resistance to foreign gene insertions, viral DNA promoters to ensure expression, etc. - does not qualify as 'natural' even if the desired trait came from a very close plant relative. The 'science' is by no means precise, there has been no way to ensure the shotgun approach to gene insertion gets into a particular spot in the genome, hence all the promoters attached to make it active regardless of where it ends up. That's asking for trouble, and many people simply do not want to be the test rats for that approach to corporate profit-making.

              I don't know how this grass managed to turn poisonous enough to wipe out a herd of cows. Definitely a mystery that needs close inspection, which I presume is why it's being investigated. I have never heard of grasslands suddenly becoming gas chambers for grazing animals, have you? Last I checked, cyanide killing cattle was about poison, not about rare good health.

              •  I apologize (0+ / 0-)

                Not every day I get invited to drink weed killer by a sicko while wrestling with a very sick computer.

                I truly am sorry.

                Please be cautious with your criticism.

                Eukaryotic translation initiation factor 5A (elf5a) is inherent in every plant and animal line and even archaea though not bactria.  Why it has continually lost out to weaker specimens is a matter of some speculation but truly no one knows.

                Recreating the natural specimen with hybridization techniques, which has been done on occasion, is simply far too time-consuming and expensive.

                I have seen pictures of predatory insects chewing on specimens, banana leaves specifically.  When the leaf showed no wilt after the attack, weaker plants were selected for attack.  That is seen in any garden (or on any playground). In the same way I have seen disease resisted without herbicides, weaker plants die in drought conditions, etc.

                So why aren't these bananas on the market?

                Hysteria, superstition, crackpot science, etc.

                It is mindless nonsense.

                Even long life flowers and lettuce have not been brought to market though they were bred the "old-fashioned" way.  The stigma remained.

                Best,  Terry

            •  By the way... (0+ / 0-)

              we are now seeing assertions that this supposedly drought-resistant grass is NOT a GMO, but a regular hybrid. Not all regular hybrids work for the desired traits they were bred to express, and some have been known to revert - or even become sterile over a few plantings.

              But, given the defense you've mounted, I just have to ask...

              Are you and the defenders now in the press claiming the cultivar is a non-GMO because the inserted trait came from a close plant relative, or because it really IS a traditional hybrid bred the traditional way? There seems a lot of confusion here, and I honestly have not ever seen a grass cultivar suddenly become deadly on its own to something as big as a full-grown bovine.

              One story claims the grass suddenly became deadly due to experiencing drought conditions. Which is the very tolerance trait that it was bred to express. How is that supposed to make sense? I mean, I don't allow cell phones inside my garden gate because their radiation - even when off - causes tomatoes to go into high stress response (established by scientific, biochemical research) if they get within 15 feet. No doubt (to me) does the same thing to everything else in my garden. But I've never heard of tomatoes suddenly becoming deadly poisonous just because they've been stressed. Have you?

              So... which is it? Is this grass a GMO or is it a traditional hybrid? Simple question, should have a simple answer.

              •  The grass is a known hybrid, not GMO n/t (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                •  Thanks, Terry. (0+ / 0-)

                  I went looking into the situation, and learned more than I previously wanted to know about how they produce these bermudagrass hybrids - not just in demand for high-quality animal fodder, but also for golf courses and such. They're propagated by cell cultures grown into clumps, then turf, then 'plugs' like that Zoyzia grass that was so popular years ago. It's basically sterile.

                  It's the gas deal that's got my head spinning, as I just have never encountered green plants giving off gases (while alive) in significant - enough to kill - quantities, other than oxygen during photosynthesis. (Isn't it a cyanide-based gas that tomatoes give off that promotes ripening? Can't quite recall...)

                  I've formulated my confusions and questions, posted as a separate comment in this diary and in yours of yesterday. I would truly appreciate it if you can help me understand what's going on - or what is suspected by investigators to be going on - with this situation. I write on the subjects of agriculture and growing methods and associated subjects for various publishing outlets, and this is a hot topic. But I do need to understand more about it.

                  Thank you in advance.

                •  Wow, I linked to stories that stated it was (0+ / 0-)

                  an FI Hybrid and not a GMO.

                  Did people just read the first paragraph and then stop?

        •  Cut the (0+ / 0-)

          cynical crap. Don't be a dick in someone's diary. If you have an alternate opinion, state it. The diarist didn't state any of the stuff you are saying but oh horrors that someone is asking for clarification on something the press has not made clear. Your own diary has not helped the misinformation but rather made it worse. Please enlighten us all with your superior knowledge instead of just clutching your pearls.

    •  I wondered if they didn't perhaps fertilize the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      field with something that had been contaminated with a rat poison or something like that.

      To people who don't do agriculture, this story sounds incredulous across the board. But then you dig up the information that other grasses produce poisons after drought or a hard frost.

      I am waiting to see who this story progresses.

  •  I am going to wait until Translator (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, Wee Mama, KenBee, Calamity Jean

    weighs in on this issue.  He is our resident Ph.D. biochemist who probably has forgotten more about the things that can kill us than the whole lot of the rest of us will ever know.

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 03:17:14 PM PDT

  •  Anytime you cross two species and (5+ / 0-)

    get a living result, it's a hybrid.

    Whether it's scary shit, or not.  Whether the critters are from different kingdoms, or just different species in the same genus.

    That's just how English works.

    Thinking the "food stamp challenge" teaches you about being poor is like thinking a camping trip will give you insight into being homeless.

    by JesseCW on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 03:25:05 PM PDT

  •  Since it's obvious that this has nothing to do (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hnichols, kyril, skohayes, Deep Texan, MGross

    with GM, maybe you can fix the title?

    This grass was developed in 1983. Before any GM technology was used in plants and only a few years after discovery of recombinant DNA. Also, how did it exist for 20 years without releasing HCN and all of a sudden started releasing it?

  •  No this will give the GMO hype spokepersons a (0+ / 0-)

    soapbox to mock those who oppose indiscriminate unlabeled addition of GMOs to our food supply. I am not against science... I am against claims where that science is the result of corporate research support grants like those that the pharmaceuticals have used to get meds in the pharmacy that shouldn't be there.

    This is a stupid story printed like many study and supposed research results reported by those with political agendas and financial vested interest... Science gets used as a tool to beat thier drums so the bucks will flow and to silence anyone who wants to check out thier claims and collect real (unpaid for by industry) results.

    There are those who are irrationally invested on both sides... Me, I want labels or I grow my own or do without. So if my left boob falls off I will have some data to cross check and eliminate possible causes. I am a hard sell and there seems to be a lot of derogatory name calling that is similar to harassment court cases filed by big business. That makes me VERY suspicious of motives and how far they will go to push something that makes them money or gives them a job. It firms my opposition because I see no reason to hide information like some patriarchal AH.

    But I sincerely doubt this story. I used to do cyanide tests and I am one of those who can smell it... Occassionally my flasks leaked during processing and I didn't keel over...I also could smell it when I did COD chemical recovery... Seems to me it would take a large quantity in an enclosed space. I don't believe it builds up like heavy chemicals and some solvents or even arsenic.

    But you are about to be jumped on  by those who want to silence any questioning of the safety of the products... You are going to be told that experts in the industry or research that say it is safe and they wouldn't have any reason to lie and thier tests are infallible and universally apply to all. There is no way these new members of the earths genome would combine over time with other genes and if they do it will be hard with out usage & reaction data to prove it. This is already done in chemicals ... Agent Orange anyone?  I was unaware that the understanding of all chemical reactions and synergy in the body was mapped enough for others to tell us eat it whether because you stupidly don't want to risk it(They are fighting not to have to tell going to tell you for you own good and if you get sick it is all in your head because they like thier Mercedes).

    How can you tell when Rmoney is lying? His lips are moving. Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 07:47:13 PM PDT

  •  I'm at a loss of words... (0+ / 0-)

    ...this sounds like the Tylenol Murders all over again.

    "We don't have government anymore, we have an auction." -Lori Compas

    by DownstateDemocrat on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 05:44:46 AM PDT

    •  It seems over the top, even by the standards of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DownstateDemocrat, Joieau

      descriptions of the Cyanide/Prussic Acid poisonings in the Vet manuals. So I am speculating that either:

      1. Some bizarre and extreme factors had to come together to make the poison this potent


      2. There is some other contaminant that has yet to be identified that played a key role in this poisoning.

      So far, there have been NO updates that I could find. It's now 0800 and I looked. The Examiner had some interesting things to say about it. But personally I would really like to hear from a veterinarian on this matter.

      I know that in Central Oklahoma, we also suffered extreme drought. It was so bad that it killed our sod in many places, because in addition to no water, too much hot sun and extreme temps, the soil was too hot too, so it baked the roots of plants in the ground.

      Whenever it  finally rained [in Sept], the whole state smelled like wet hay. I don't recall any bitter almond smells at all. But that wet smell hay was so strong, it was acrid and overpowering. It made you nauseated after a while.

      And if this is something that could occur in nature, all by itself, why haven't there been other reports of animals falling over and dying within hours of grazing??

      So something stinks here.

      Not sure what it is, but it seems to me that there are some puzzle pieces missing.

  •  Plea for knowledge... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I am sincerely hoping someone here with the necessary knowledge will explain in a way that I can understand, how these bermudagrass hybrids are produced (with/without recombinant technology ?) in such a way that such a deadly sudden transformation can occur. This is important, as so many golf courses (not just ag pastures) are sodded with polyploid bermudagrass hybrids - do we get dramatic die-offs during golf tourneys next?

    Things I have been able to find out - do not know if I'm understanding the technical details I'm reading in the literature, so do correct false impressions if need be:

    1. Tifton 68, one of the cultivars crossed to produce Tifton 85, is (?) a propagated turf grass - its pollen and seeds are sterile, so it is planted by means of 'plugs'. T85 is propagated the same way, it doesn't produce viable seeds or pollen either.

    2. The way they get the 'plugs' is by careful propagation via chemicals applied to cuttings in petri dishes to produce somatic cells that will develop into full plants. Sort of a cellular version of how you can propagate a shrub or tree by starting roots from a twig with Rootone in water.

    3. From this tissue culture a clump of turf develops, and that is used to grow more for those 'plugs'.

    • I don't know if the other cultivar in T85 propagates by pollen/seed or by tissue cultures like T68/T85. Doesn't matter to my main confusion. Deal is, the cultivars involved in making T85 have different numbers of chromosomes.

    • Propagation by tissue culture does NOT by itself allow crosses between different cultivars, as all are basically clones of the original cultivar.

    • Regular cross-breeding to produce hybrid plants involves mixing of chromosomes via pollen to produce crossbreed seeds with genes from both parent cultivars, select for desired traits from among what comes out the other end.

    My Confusion: How do genes from different cultivars (sterile or seed-producing) get 'mixed' to produce a new cultivar if recombination or gene/promoter insertion isn't used?

    - Is it like a straight chemically-enhanced mixing of parental chromosomes in a tissue-cultured call to be propagated by 'plugging'? If so, what chemicals and/or processes are used to get all the chromosomes into the nucleus of the cell (T68 was developed in 1985)?

    - Was T68 produced using recombinant/gene insertion tech?

    - Does this process of mixing chromosomes produces a cultivar with a different number of chromosomes from the parent cultivars?

    Understanding how T85 was produced in the first place (and how its parent cultivars were produced, as I think these are all tissue culture type propagators) is necessary - I think - to understanding what could and did go wrong after many years' of stable growth with all desired traits.

    Can anybody help me out here?

    Links so far -

    Bermudagrass Tissue Culture and Genetic Transformation through Agrobacterium and Particle Bombardment Methods

    Tifton 85 Bermudagrass

    Cattle gain faster on Tifton 85; new bermudagrass hybrid has enhanced digestibility

    Polyploidy & Hybridization in San Diego County

    •  So far no one has said anything about it one way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      or the other.

      Though the thought that this is an F1 Hybrid produced from a GMO is an interesting thought.

      And it would certain explain the CBS journalist's take on it's status as a GMO if that were the case.

      •  As an example of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        why I avoid F1 hybrids in my crop beds like the plague, I did an experiment this year that is right now so spectacularly obvious nobody misses it just by looking.

        I've never been able to grow sweet corn here. No matter where I plant it, it comes in all stunted and weak, maybe one ear per, gets its silk and tassles early, and refuses to adequately pollenate so I can get more than a few scattered kernels. Hate the stuff, a total waste of space and work.

        So this year I set aside a north-south oriented terrace (10 feet wide, 100 feet long) for corn - one that had been fallowed for the past two years and adequately amended with leaf mulch and compost so I know it's fertile. I planted one block at the south end with the usual F1 sweet corn. I planted some gorgeous red/blue Indian corn (heirloom, of course) at the north end, right next to it.

        The sweet F1 is doing the same old same old, tallest is about 4.5 feet, have tassles on less-than 3 foot tall scragglers, we won't get a single edible ear of corn out of the deal. As usual. The Indian corn is 8 feet tall, even, dark green, super-healthy and proud. I'm not seeing ears yet or tassles, it's still going big time. I expect for the first time in 20 years of truck farming here, I will finally get some very nice ears with full kernels. I'll dry some, of course, but I expect we'll eat quite a lot just because we can - if they want it sweet, I'll throw some sugar in the water!

        And next year I'm dedicating a whole out-fence section now in clover to nothing but Indian corn. Then I'll make tortillas! §;o)

    •  I am looking for information on one of the parent (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      grasses: PI 290884

      This is from the Hay guys:

      Origin: South Africa ... Cross between a tall, highly- digestible african stargrass (Tifton 68; C. nlemfuensis hybrid), and an armyworm-resistant bermudagrass accession from South Africa (PI 290884; C. dactylon)  The new variety is taller and has larger stems, broader leaves, and darker green color.   Sod type with a more erect growth habit, thicker stems and stolons, and wider leaves than previous bermudagrass releases. It also produces larger but fewer rhizomes than Coastal bermudagrass. Compared to 'Coastal' the taller growth character, requires using a taller stubble heighth for long-term persistence of Tifton 85. It has a high crude protein and digestibility and is the highest quality grass among bermudagrasses and is good for grazing, hay, haylage, greenchop. Tifton 85 makes excellent hay when properly managed and is comparable to alfalfa when cut on 3 1/2 week intervals. Digestibility runs over 65% and protein level can easily exceed 17%. Tifton 85 makes a lot of sense if you are looking for a high quality hay product based on its protein and digestibility profile. Tifton 85 doesn't produce seeds, it's grown by panting sprigs - clumps that include above-ground runner known as stolons and underground runners called rhizomes. the stolons and rhizomes spread horizontally and develop roots and a new plant at each joint.
      african stargrass (Tifton 68; C. nlemfuensis hybrid),


      armyworm-resistant bermudagrass accession from South Africa (PI 290884; C. dactylon

      Another PDF page lists the parent grasses as Cynodon Dactylon P-290884

      And Tifton 68 Cynodon nlemfuensis

      From the Journal of Animal Science by Gates and Burton.

      So far nothing indicates that it is a GMO , but still looking.

      A page from Purdue which meantions Tifton 85

      So I have switched gears to look from another angle--see this 2011 GMO Grass to Hit US Market.
      This is KY Bluegrass.


      Bentgrass, but this was not received with enthusiasm by golf-courses..

      Wow---I wonder how many Scott's Miracle Grow Weed and Feed fans now have GMO Kentucky Blue Grass and don't even know it!

      CBS just corrected the original story

      But also on there:

      An official at the Department of Agriculture told CBS News that there are currently no genetically modified grasses on the market or bring grown for public use or consumption.

      So now I am thoroughly confused, did Scotts get the green light on the KY Blue Grass or not? Oh wait, it's exempt from GMO Labeling--Oh yea, so--I guess no harm, no foul! [snark]

      I still do want to know how this particular form of poisoning got to be so potent to that many cows in such a short amount of time.

      •  Wow, thanks so much GM! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's all got me sort of stumped too, as it seems like F1s aren't "the usual" on-purpose crossbreeds I'm used to in my annual seed catalogues (and which I avoid across the board in favor of heirlooms). This whole clonal tech isn't really so strange either, as I have cloned grape vines, roses and other things with rootone from cuttings. Learned that from my mother decades ago. And I plugged that Zoyzia stuff into my sister's lawn ~25 years ago back in Florida, only passingly wondering how come we couldn't buy seed. Now I see that this turf stuff is usually sterile.

        What I'm not understanding is how they actually do the gene-crossing for these clones (one polyploid, one triploid, so I'm assuming different strains with different numbers of duplicated chromosomes). Since they're generally sterile, and say they're NOT using recombinant technology to get just the genes and/or segments they want. Or even direct nuclear insertion of select chromosomes. Which WOULD qualify as GMO.

        Hoping Terry may know how this is done, as I'd love to understand it well enough to write an article for readers who are as curious as I am... §;o)

        •  Yes, I would also add for those who don't grow (0+ / 0-)

          plants at all. Gardeners make clones when they take cuttings from plants and then encourage those cuttings to take root and then plant them. The resulting plant is a clone of the original plant.  This process is also known as propagating cuttings.

      •  Oh... and (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        when they say there's no pasture grass/hay that's GMO, that's total bullshit. Just say: Alfalfa and Monsanto.

  •  Prussic Acid poisoning is a known problem... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...occasionally occurring with Thoroughbred horses grazing certain grasses.  It's known to happen with Johnson grass and sorghum.  Forgive me if I'm repeating what's been said; when I saw the whole GM/not GM parts, I skipped over.  This grass is NOT GM, and isn't a cross of GM products, either.  It's a hybrid cross between a grass from GA and a grass from South Africa.  

    And the cattle in question were roping steers, fresh from being "worked", that were exhausted, starving, and dehydrated.  Their systems were already stressed beyond measure, so turning them out into pasture that wasn't in the right phase to begin with compromised them further.  

    I'm not a scientist (though I'm married to one), but this article was a sensationalized piece of BS.  They've now "corrected" it (though it still says cyanide gas was released from the grass...hello?? NO, not in the field!), but the damage is done.  Everything is already blown out of proportion; this article was the #2 most read article on CBS's website yesterday morning.  Had the owners of the cattle (or whoever was managing them) paid attention and not turned them out in that pasture at that particular time, under those particular conditions, it would never have happened. :(

    •  And before you try to say I'm someone from... (0+ / 0-)

      ...Monsanto or somesuch, DON'T.  I'm no troll, and my scientist husband isn't anywhere in the corporate world.  I'm just trying to share the information I have.

      •  Back down the defensiveness GAMama (0+ / 0-)

        I already put in the diary several times, that everything I found [even before the CBS correction] indicated this was an F1 Hybrid and not a product of Gene Splicing or similar processes.

        You can even go up and see that I thought perhaps the field had been treated with a chemical that made a bad situation worse, like a rodenticide or some-such, because as a person who has limited experience with live stock, the story as it was explained in the CBS piece didn't make sense.

        I went to the trouble of reading manuals written by veterinarians, and looked up scholarly pieces on the grass itself.

        The only time, I get suspicious of someone being a shill is when they criticize me for thinking out loud at all.

        If you have something of value to add to the conversation--which you do, then it's good.

        So put those hackles down. No one is out to get anyone here.

        •  Sorry for the defensiveness... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          My husband has been extremely stressed over this (this is his field), so his stress bled over into me...very sorry!  Also reading the comments over on the original article on CBS got me a little hot under the collar again...I unintentionally let that bleed in over here.  I apologize!

          On the upswing, here is an updated article from one of the people involved in the investigation into the deaths (through Texas A&M's extension department); they are definitely investigating further, putting together specific research teams just for this, but have initially found that in the 20 years since this particular hybrid was released, this is the very first report of prussic acid poisoning.  That's part of what is so perplexing, even taking into consideration the stress on the animals at the time they were turned out into the pasture.  

          •  Thanks for posting that link, I will add it (0+ / 0-)

            to an update too.

          •  Oh sure, but you should let people process (0+ / 0-)

            the information.

            I don't keep cattle or horses. I haven't had any since I was a child, and so never learned about this ever.

            I always thought livestock got poisoned eating locoweed or hellbore flowers, or cherry twigs.

            I never imagined that grass could produce a toxin for grazing animals that they couldn't digest.

            That just amazes me.

            So I know most people would have the same reaction.

            Cows eat grass, all grass. So WTF?
            So to someone completely on the outside, a GMO doing this makes perfect sense, esp after the material about Glyphosphate causing spontaneous abortions, and weird shit like that.

            To people on the outside, who know they are being lied to regularly, the CBS story originally ran, seems totally plausible. Our trust in everything has been eroded so far that nothing really surprises us. Depravity is now officially an olympic sport as is bad faith contracts and malicious mischief.

            And that means some will take it on face value.
            Some, like me, will hunt down more details.

            But that process of watching us figure it out will not be pretty.

            I say, at least some of us  care.

            •  The CBS story made some sense at first (0+ / 0-)

              Til I started reading the manuals and researching the Tifton85.

              Then it made no sense.

              But I had to read that other stuff at first to figure that out. And some of that material didn't pop up immediately. Some of it was over my head in jargon.

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