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Cyanide-Producing GM Grass Linked To Texas Cattle Deaths

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the now-that's-just-creepy dept.

Biotech 305

Peristaltic writes "Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are trying to determine if an unexpected mutation in a popular GM grass, Tifton 85, is responsible for the sudden deaths of a small herd of cattle in Elgin, Texas three weeks ago. The grass has been used for grazing since 1992 without incident, however after a severe drought last year in Texas, the grass started producing cyanide in sufficient quantities to kill a small herd of cattle in Elgin, Texas. Testing has found the cyanide-producing grass in nearby fields as well." Update: 06/23 22:59 GMT by T : Reader Jon Cousins writes with a correction that means the headline above is inaccurate for including "GM." Tifton 85, he writes, is "absolutely not genetically modified. It's a conventionally bred hybrid."

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Holy f*** (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423793)

This is scary movie nightmare stuff come true!!!

Grass that kills!!!

Re:Holy f*** (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423833)

This is scary movie nightmare stuff come true!!!

Grass that kills!!!

Devil Grass [wikia.com]

Re:Holy f*** (4, Funny)

haruchai (17472) | about 2 years ago | (#40423841)

Ever seen Reefer Madness (1936)?

Re:Holy f*** (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about 2 years ago | (#40423865)

This is amazing. I mean this is like something from The Onion. Except its real.

Re:Holy f*** (4, Funny)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 2 years ago | (#40423909)

This is amazing. I mean this is like something from The Onion. Except its real.

Fortunately, onions have sulfur not cyanide.

Re:Holy f*** (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40424617)

Why, cyanide production is common in lots of plants. Cattle sometimes die from eating too many cherry tree leaves. I don't understand the whole problem. Put plants under stress and they will produce more secondary metabolites for a multitude of reasons, including herbivore protection.

yeah, except for the true part (5, Informative)

daninaustin (985354) | about 2 years ago | (#40423999)

Re:yeah, except for the true part (3, Funny)

Peristaltic (650487) | about 2 years ago | (#40424099)

Damn. I was just pulling my pitchfork and torch out of the shed. Thought it was interesting; should have done more research.

Re:yeah, except for the true part (1)

kanto (1851816) | about 2 years ago | (#40424519)

Damn. I was just pulling my pitchfork and torch out of the shed. Thought it was interesting; should have done more research.

Stay negative; just with the old hybridization-method they managed to create something that in field conditions produced enough cyanide to kill a cow. Now consider GM crops, including possible hybrids, and if they're more or less likely to have unintended consequences. Yes, they're the most tested seeds and plants ever, but we test medicines too and there are occasional failures... also boxes of pills are easier to recall than plants from the wild.

Re:yeah, except for the true part (5, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#40424529)

just with the old hybridization-method they managed to create something that in field conditions produced enough cyanide to kill a cow.

Cyanide poisoning is apparently a potential problem with any variety of grass, not just the hybrids.

Re:yeah, except for the true part (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424623)

Whoops, minor error. Very clearly no editorial bias here, right?

Report Them (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423797)

If a company is manufacturing chemical weapons that could fall into the hands of terrorists, it sounds like something the Department of Homeland Security should know about, right away.

Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423809)

Too bad it's not actually fiction, because right now it's just terrifying, but still cool at the same time.

Also, if this turns out to be true maaaaaybe all those non GMO quacks aren't such, quacks.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (2, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 2 years ago | (#40423977)

Well, knowing how plants do spread over time, this could be catastrophic unless it is quarantined. We've already seen what happens with an invasive plant species. [wikipedia.org]

This could be an ecological disaster. The grass isn't "new", and this wasn't a test case. It's been sold to farmers since 1991. https://www.google.com/#hl=en&safe=off&sclient=psy-ab&q=Tifton+85+bermudagrass [google.com]

It's clearly for farming, but I wonder how much has ended up around residences also. In any case, this could be really bad. Looking around, it's most likely in too many areas, so it cannot be quarantined and destroyed. ... and I'm not a anti-GM nut.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424117)

... and I'm not a anti-GM nut.

You're commenting on a story about a widely distributed GM grass unintentionally producing cyanide yet still believing the anti-GM crowd must be nuts?

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424163)

You're commenting on a story about a widely distributed GM grass unintentionally producing cyanide yet still believing the anti-GM crowd must be nuts?

Yes the anti-GM crowd is nuts and this story only confirms it. The grass in this case was not Genetically Modified.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (1)

yndrd1984 (730475) | about 2 years ago | (#40424175)

You're commenting on a story about a widely distributed GM grass unintentionally producing cyanide yet still believing the anti-GM crowd must be nuts?

Since the grass in question isn't genetically modified, yes - some of the anti-GM people are nuts enough to try to use this to slam GM.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (4, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424587)

It does not make anybody "nuts". The information was corrected, and you can change your position after the fact.

I'm anti-GM, and this is apparently just hybridization gone wrong. If anything, this shows how careful we have to be and not proceed with such a cavalier attitude towards research and implementation. This was 20 years. Keeping this in mind, the short term gains demanded by capitalism gone wrong make it seem pretty damn unreasonable and dangerous to not test the crap out of something like this for an extended period of time.

For the record, my biggest gripe with GM is what I see as dangerously performed research (practically no containment of any kind), dangerous precedents in patent law (owning genetic sequences), using it as an excuse to saturate farms with pesticides (bad for environment, bad for food, and allows for rapid evolution of countermeasures in affected species), and its affect (by use) on seed diversity.

Not to mention the logistical nightmare of recouping research and working out ownership of something that, by its very nature, can move and "infect" other crops. Monsanto deserves to burn in hell for all the grief they have given farmers simply because of the fucking wind acting as a ninja-like salesman.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (4, Informative)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#40424181)

still believing the anti-GM crowd must be nuts?

Yes, absolutely. Many grasses produce cyanide (usually called prussic acid by farmers). It's common and avoidable (Pro tip: never, ever let livestock graze near cherry trees. Wilted cherry leaves contain toxic levels of prussic acid [answers.com] ). Plus this is not a GM plant, it's a hybrid.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (0, Troll)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 2 years ago | (#40424481)

Many grasses produce cyanid

And most grassy fields don't kill a herd of livestock.

Plus this is not a GM plant, it's a hybrid.

    Since you must be a botanist familiar with grass, can you follow the trail back for me? Did you work with Dr. Burton on it? All I've found is that is a hybrid of PI-290884 and Tifton 68. By the names, I assume they're also hybrid or GM. What is the lineage all the way back to native plants?

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424257)

No, we're all commenting on a story about how grass has always done this and still does, but farmers don't pay attention in school and journalists think boring stories are more interesting if they make up a few facts like "this is GM grass and it has mutated" rather than asking a scientist who would say "Yeah, grass does that, fascinating isn't it?"

The same is sadly true for human food. If you tell average people that the sausages have a perfectly safe GM ingredient, they freak out and won't eat them. Those sausages would be perfectly safe, but they're imagining they'll grow an extra head. But drop the sausages on the floor, or let uncooked pieces of chicken drip onto them, and they're fine with that, because that's just normal everyday danger that actually exists, nothing to get freaked out about.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (2)

ubermiester (883599) | about 2 years ago | (#40424233)

Not GM grass. Naturally bred hybrid. The headline is 100% wrong.

Perhaps you should read the actual article before posting. And, BTW, the first non-PDF result of your posted google search says specifically that it's a hybrid not a GM strain.

If you're actually "not a anti-GM nut" you should act like one.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (2)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#40424505)

It's worth noting here that the grass may not have mutated at all and simply behave this way under these circumstances.

no, they are still quacks. (3, Informative)

daninaustin (985354) | about 2 years ago | (#40424059)

Re:no, they are still quacks. (-1, Flamebait)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 2 years ago | (#40424165)

Before you call people quacks, make sure your arguments aren't fucking dumb.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_(biology)#Hybrid_plants [wikipedia.org]

Many hybrids are created by humans, but natural hybrids occur as well.

So, the question is, which one is this?

And yes, even if it's man-made, it's not technically GM, because that is a set of specific technologies -- but your argument is still fucked in the ass, because GM, in effect, is this process on steroids. So maybe try "if even mere hybrids can go so haywire, how much more so GM stuff?" -- haha.

Pardon the pun, but diving towards the "BUT IT'S NOT ACTUALLY GM!!!!111" exit is just grasping for straws.

Re:no, they are still quacks. (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 2 years ago | (#40424183)

meh, sorry.

Many hybrids are created by humans, but natural hybrids occur as well.

was meant to be a quote, the rest is my post.

Re:no, they are still quacks. (4, Insightful)

yndrd1984 (730475) | about 2 years ago | (#40424349)

GM, in effect, is this process on steroids. - "BUT IT'S NOT ACTUALLY GM!!!!111" exit is just grasping for straws.

What about the "lots of naturally occurring grasses do this, it just doesn't make the news" argument?

Re:no, they are still quacks. (1)

MemoryAid (675811) | about 2 years ago | (#40424493)

Creating hybrids involves crossing to varietals to produce a third varietal, hoping for an improvement. It would be expected for the new strain to have characteristics that combine those of the two parents in some way, but it's not guaranteed.
Now, we put that on steroids. I would expect a random mish-mash of new characteristics along with some or all of the characteristics of the parents. That's what the steroids analogy does for me.

Genetic modification, in contrast, usually involves isolating the gene sequence for a specific trait that is desired in the new strain, then splicing the genes into an existing genome. Much more precise.

I propose a different analogy: if hybridization efforts were surgery, they would be done with a spoon. GM would then be like SURGERY WITH A SCALPEL!!! Horrors.

Re:no, they are still quacks. (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#40424221)

There exist plants which don't crossbreed naturally but lab chimeras can be created from them so being a hybrid doesn't necessarily mean that it's not GMO.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (0)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424585)

No, they're still nutjobs. One non-gmo being declared a gmo when it fires up it's don't f-ing eat you you damn cow defense in drought situation and thus killing some cows dumb enough to eat it, then the press falsely declaring it a gmo, does not make the wackos correct, nor sane.

Re:Ok, now THAT is a cool sci-fi story (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424641)

Except that, as noted above and in the revised summary, its not GMO.

Which demonstrates perhaps that the real danger isnt GM, its overreaction, bias, and preconceptions. Oh, and editorial failure.

Dear Mr Abel (5, Funny)

drewsup (990717) | about 2 years ago | (#40423811)

How dare your heard of cattle defame the good name of our company by having the nerve to DIE after eating our product. You sir, will be hearing from our attorneys.

Sincerely,
The Monsanto Group

Re:Dear Mr Abel (3, Funny)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | about 2 years ago | (#40423847)

I didn't realise FunnyJunk was in the GM business.

Re:Dear Mr Abel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423895)

Dear CBS News,

Regarding your story of June 23 titled, 'GM grass linked to Texas cattle deaths.' Please be advised that you may be in violation of statutes regarding libel. To avoid additional counts in the lawsuit, which our attorneys will be serving shortly, please remove this story at once.

Sincerely,
The Monsanto Group

*fixed it for you

Re:Dear Mr Abel (3, Informative)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#40424229)

/s/The Monsanto Group/University of Georgia/

University of Georgia at Tifton and USDA, Monsanto is not involved at all.

Re:Dear Mr Abel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424401)

Hey. Hey. Hey. Facts have no place in anti-GM arguments!

Re:Dear Mr Abel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424265)

Not funny, true story down here in China.

Re:Dear Mr Abel (4, Informative)

khipu (2511498) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424635)

You'd be amazed by all the completely natural plants that cattle will eat and that will kill them.

Will there be lawsuits? (1)

reboot246 (623534) | about 2 years ago | (#40423817)

I hope so!!

You know, of course, that a lot of the food you eat is GM food.

Re:Will there be lawsuits? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423867)

The food you eat is usually made from sterile seeds. There is no chance of it mutating. I hope there are lawsuits too, but not because what I eat is GM, but because the cattle were pretty much poisoned and the owners should be compensated.

Re:Will there be lawsuits? (2)

Whibla (210729) | about 2 years ago | (#40424013)

The food you eat is usually made from sterile seeds.

Emphasis mine.

There is no chance of it mutating. I hope there are lawsuits too, but not because what I eat is GM, but because the cattle were pretty much poisoned and the owners should be compensated.

Wouldn't a supposedly sterile plant spontaneously producing viable seeds actually count as a mutation? I recall something like that actually happening some years back, when gmo's were all the rage (erm...being raged about). 'Fraid you might have to use your own Google-fu on that though.

Does this mean the end of gmo's? Nope. Are most of them safe? Probably. Does this mean that the anti-gmo folk were wrong? Not all of them apparently...

FP Bitches (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423819)

--see title--

Re:FP Bitches (1)

Exrio (2646817) | about 2 years ago | (#40424041)

Floating point bitches?! Damn, and here I messin' with my integer bitches... Where can I buy?

meddle with nature and suffer the concequences (0)

ozduo (2043408) | about 2 years ago | (#40423821)

This is a big nail in the coffin of GM producers

Mr. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423859)

Mod this guy up. He's absolutely right, GMOs are going to get screwed.

The general public will go apeshit when / if they hear about this.

Re:meddle with nature and suffer the concequences (1)

haruchai (17472) | about 2 years ago | (#40423871)

I wouldn't be so quick to sound the death knell for GM. Some of the companies in the industry have been producing killer crap for a long time.

Re:meddle with nature and suffer the concequences (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#40423993)

Unlikely this will affect GM since this grass is a hybrid, not a GM product.

Re:meddle with nature and suffer the concequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424093)

And we can rely on the top-notch reporting by the mass media to explain the difference to the general public. Sure.

Re:meddle with nature and suffer the concequences (1)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | about 2 years ago | (#40423875)

I doubt it. Monsanto will come up with some way to turn this into "...cyanide-producing grass..." is a feature, not a bug. Now - Get out there and buy and eat more beef!

Re:meddle with nature and suffer the concequences (0)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 2 years ago | (#40424113)

Once you open Pandora's box, you can't shut it again... This stuff is out there, and I doubt will ever be exterminated.

Re:meddle with nature and suffer the concequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424295)

Of course, the grass in question is not a GMO. But hey, don't let the truth get in the way of all that hammering.

Except it isn't GM grass. (5, Informative)

mc6809e (214243) | about 2 years ago | (#40423839)

Tifton 85 is actually a hybrid of African Bermuda grass and Tifton 68, a different hybrid produced in Tifton, Texas.

It's not a GM grass.

Except that.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423927)

These two grasses likely would have never been close enough in nature to influence each other. While genetically modified doesn't technically include selective breeding, I would argue that we are still screwing with nature and creating something that wouldn't have otherwise occurred naturally. That's how we should be defining 'Genetically Modified.'

Re:Except that.. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424025)

Then virtually every single crop cultivated would then be defined as "Genetically Modified" if we went along with that logic. It astonishes me that people actually think this way and it scares the shit out of me that they could ever be in a position to make policy.

Sorry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424135)

Sorry, we can't all be idealists like you.

Poor oversight is what caused these cattle to die. I'm sure you can understand what happens at a larger scale.

Re:Sorry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424327)

And refraining from using modern agricultural techniques will cause people to die, by the hundreds of millions.

But I'm sure you anti-GM fruitcakes are fine with that, being about one step up from the Unabomber on any given psychological assessment test.

Re:Sorry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424507)

Actually, I'm with you! I think we should all fuck like bunnies and force EVERY woman to bear a child EVERY YEAR of her life, from when she first becomes fertile, until she stops being fertile. It's the only responsible way to make sure we humans survive!

Oh, yes, I almost forgot -

Good plan. (4, Insightful)

daninaustin (985354) | about 2 years ago | (#40424095)

Let's get rid of all those awful hybrid plants and let most of the people in the world starve. We should be thankful for all the wonderful discoveries that saved billions of lives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug [wikipedia.org]

Re:Good plan. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424387)

Well, the problem is exactly that hybridization, genetic modification, factory farming, pesticides, selective herbicides, and so on have enabled us to feed millions of people who otherwise would have starved. These millions have bred several millions more persons, and now more are starving than before. Another horn of the problem is that it is not the hungry people who are using this technology to feed themselves, it is people with more heart than brain are giving them food to keep them from starving.
This cycle runs around and around with every year more starving people and every year more land being brought under better cultivation with better techniques to feed those starving who breed even more starving...
When the cycle crashes, it will result in more deaths than the Black Death could ever aspire to in its wildest dreams.

Re:Except that.. (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 2 years ago | (#40424119)

Well, I hope you don't like domesticated dogs.
Or cattle.
Or...

Re:Except that.. (2)

arose (644256) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424643)

So? What about rhubarb leaves to pull a random example? Not natural enough still?

Re:Except that.. (2)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424667)

I hope you've never eaten corn in your life, then. Or wheat. Or tomato. Or basically any commercially grown crop. Because that would make you a filthy hypocrite.

Re:Except that.. (2)

khipu (2511498) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424675)

I would argue that we are still screwing with nature and creating something that wouldn't have otherwise occurred naturally

We've been screwing with plants in this way for millennia. Almost every plant and animal you eat has been screwed with this way. Without it, humanity wouldn't have survived.

Re:Except it isn't GM grass. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423943)

Hey your facts are getting in the way of the usual anti GM circle jerk around here!

Re:Except it isn't GM grass. (4, Informative)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 2 years ago | (#40423969)

For those who're interested, here's a reference [tamu.edu] from the Texas Ag Extension Service. Finding more info on the matter is proving difficult (by which I mean it's taking more than five minutes) but here's a relevant quote:

Tifton 85 is a hybrid bermudagrass that was jointly developed and officially released in 1992 by the USDAARS and the University of Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia. It is a cross between a selection from South Africa (PI 290884) and Tifton 68.

CAPTCHA? (1)

6Yankee (597075) | about 2 years ago | (#40423851)

I guess those cows failed the Turing test...

BS (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423855)

You've got to be kidding: this report needs to be retracted as it is completely wrong. Tifton 85 is a conventionally bred grass.

It's incredibly irresponsible to print something this inflammatory and wrong. You've now aerated people all over the world with this misunderstanding, and it will continue to be flogged forever with this incorrect information.

Further, people who hear about this won't know what the real issue is and it could cause more cow deaths.

Fix or retract this article immediately.

Pull the story. Get your facts straight. This farmer needs education from a local co-op extention. Any native or hybrid (NOT GM) grass can create this condition! Those that care for truth and real data go here and learn: http://www.uwex.edu/ces/forage/pubs/sorghum.htm

Re:BS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423981)

This same comment (close enough as to make certain that it is the same author) appears on the comments of the news article itself. It seems to me that Monsanto's team of hired spin doctors are working some overtime this weekend.

Re:BS (4, Insightful)

yndrd1984 (730475) | about 2 years ago | (#40424243)

--Tifton 85 is a conventionally bred grass.

-Monsanto's team of hired spin doctors are working some overtime this weekend.

How is correcting a major factual mistake in a story "spinning" anything?

Re:BS (0, Flamebait)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#40424489)

I assume by "spin" he's referring to propaganda, communication which propagates a particular point of view. Even the truth is "spin" in that context.

Re:BS (1, Funny)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 2 years ago | (#40424051)

So? That's really not all important at the time being. Whether it's conventional or not, the grass needs to be firebombed before it's allowed to spread any further.

No, I'm not kidding.

It's reputedly a cold intolerant grass which has high yields. That means it spreads quickly and will only become more prevalent as the world warms. Supposedly, this is an actual mutation and not just a short-term response to the severe climatic stressors.

If it spreads, it will not only kill off one of the most effective and inexpensive sources of fat and protein everywhere it goes, but it will make the land unsuitable for grazing at all, for who knows how long. Possibly forever. Everywhere the plant grows will eventually become a deadzone to pretty much everything else due to the cyanide content (which will kill anything which eats it or the things which eat the things which eat it, including insects, other mammals, and birds). In all possibility, this would result in the entire warm region of America becoming desert, for all we know.

Maybe I'm being alarmist, but to me, it's better safe than sorry - sorry being a desert planet. :(

Re:BS (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 2 years ago | (#40424193)

So? That's really not all important at the time being.

No it's very important. A major piece of misinformation like that is enough to cast doubt on all aspects of the story.

Maybe I'm being alarmist, but to me, it's better safe than sorry - sorry being a desert planet. :(

The "think of the children" approach?

Re:BS (5, Informative)

rohan972 (880586) | about 2 years ago | (#40424383)

Maybe I'm being alarmist, but to me, it's better safe than sorry - sorry being a desert planet.

You are being alarmist and it is not better to take drastic action unnecessarily than to know what you are doing. You are not going to get a desert planet from this. They are testing to see if it's a mutation because the weather events were not the ones they would have expected to produce cyanide. Production of cyanide by grasses is known and understood, this just happened unexpectedly and in combination with poor animal husbandry.

It's not the only pasture crop that can kill cows if you put them in hungry to fresh grass, either. Even lucerne and other legumes can kill cows by releasing gas and foam in the stomach. I hope you don't think we should kill all legumes just in case.

Re:BS (2, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | about 2 years ago | (#40424171)

Lets hope Monsanto can quickly genetically engineer this dangerous hybrid grass to something safer before it destroys the world!!

Realistically though, their business model would be more likely to come up with cyanide resistant cows as a more marketable solution...

Re:BS (4, Informative)

westlake (615356) | about 2 years ago | (#40424513)

Pull the story. Get your facts straight. This farmer needs education from a local co-op extention.

Cyanide poisoning in veterinary medicine:

Cyanides are found in plants, fumigants, soil sterilizers, fertilizers, and rodenticides (eg, calcium cyanomide). Toxicity can result from improper or malicious use, but in the case of livestock, the most frequent cause is ingestion of plants that contain cyanogenic glycosides. These include Triglochin maritima (arrow grass), Hoecus lunatus (velvet grass), Sorghum spp (Johnson grass, Sudan grass, common sorghum), Prunus spp (apricot, peach, chokecherry, pincherry, wild black cherry), Sambucus canadensis (elderberry), Pyrus malus (apple), Zea mays (corn), and Linum spp (flax). The seeds (pits) of several plants such as the peach have been the source of cyanogenic glycosides in many cases. Eucalyptus spp , kept as ornamental houseplants, have been implicated in deaths of small animals.

The cyanogenic glycosides in plants yield free hydrocyanic acid (HCN), otherwise known as prussic acid, when hydrolyzed by Î-glycosidase or when other plant cell structure is disrupted or damaged, eg, by freezing, chopping, or chewing. Microbial action in the rumen can further release free cyanide.

Apple and other fruit trees contain prussic acid glycosides in leaves and seeds but little or none in the fleshy part of the fruits. In Sorghum spp forage grasses, leaves usually produce 2-25 times more HCN than do stems; seeds contain none. New shoots from young, rapidly growing plants often contain high concentrations of prussic acid glycosides.
The cyanogenic glycoside potential is slow to decrease in drought-stricken plants containing mostly leaves. Grazing stunted plants during drought is the most common cause of poisoning of livestock by plants that produce prussic acid.

Frozen plants may release high concentrations of prussic acid for several days. After wilting, release of prussic acid from plant tissues declines. Dead plants have less free prussic acid. When plant tops have been frosted, new shoots may regrow at the base; these can be dangerous because of glycoside content and because livestock selectively graze them.

Ruminants are more susceptible than monogastric animals, and cattle slightly more so than sheep. Hereford cattle have been reported to be less susceptible than other breeds.

Cyanide Poisoning: Introduction [merckvetmanual.com]

A history of cyanide poisoning generally, and a good read: Cyanide Poisoning [army.mil]

Some common cyanogenic edible plants reported to cause cyanide poisoning include cassava, sorghum, sweet potatoes, yams, maize, millet, bamboo, sugarcane, peas, lima beans, soybeans, almond kernels, lemons, limes, apples, pears, peach, chokecherries, apricots, prunes, and plums. Cassava (manioc) and sorghum are staple foods for hundreds of millions of people in many tropical countries and are blamed in part for the high incidence of central and peripheral neuropathies in those areas.

Since the time of ancient Egypt, plants containing cyanide derivatives, such as bitter almonds, cherry laurel leaves, peach pits, and cassava, have been used as lethal poisons. Peach pits used in judicial executions by the ancient Egyptians are on display in the Louvre Museum, Paris, and an Egyptian papyrus refers to the "penalty of the peach."

Re:BS (-1, Troll)

no-body (127863) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424679)

Tifton 85 is a conventionally bred grass.

Ah - a conventionally bred grass doing this?

Just wait and see what GM can do.

Maybe the whole story is just to whitewash GM.....

interesting, but (1)

aheadinabox (936810) | about 2 years ago | (#40423881)

I don't really understand the need to put one paragraph of story per page, its just freaking annoying. I didn't realize how far down the GM road we have come. OK, I understand corn is being GM'd and by logical extension things that eat corn, but grass? I really hope technology improvements allow time travel real quick like...I'd love to relocate to a period in time BEFORE we completely fuck this planet up

Looks like crap from CBS (5, Informative)

mynamestolen (2566945) | about 2 years ago | (#40423903)

A different report says this can happen in any type of grass. http://www.uwex.edu/ces/forage/pubs/sorghum.htm [uwex.edu] Young plants, including roots, and leaves of older plants contain a compound called dhurrin which can break down to release a substance called prussic acid or hydrogen cyanide (HCN). The recommendation is not to graze or cut for green chop until the plant is 18 to 20 inches tall.

Re:Looks like crap from CBS (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | about 2 years ago | (#40423995)

This was something I was wondering.

Even though I don't doubt this happened, the whole summary and concept sounds too much like a cheap scare tactic. The mechanisms for cyanide production had to come from somewhere. The cyanide production had to either be natural to the plant strain originally or involved with whatever was added. What you say is similarly true for yeast. Fermentation of alcohol has to occur in anaerobic environments as otherwise yeast produce other compounds. Still more research needs to be done.

If what was added, kill use of this strain while examining it as one would a medical treatment/substance that passed FDA inspection, but started killing people.

If else natural, could be a coincidence that this was GM. Perform studied/experiments against un-GM versions of same plant strain to see if this is the capabilities of the "normal plant" in similar environmental factors, or a mutation in part of the plant's genome that should not have been influenced by the GM modifications.

Else a combination of the two, study to see how to prevent this from happening again. If unprovable either way, release a version that removes the capability to produce cyanide unless it is a necessary requirement for the plant to survive.

Re:Looks like crap from CBS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424001)

This is what is called in the industry... a workaround. Your beautiful hybrid plants kill animals other than the bugs they were meant to kill... hmm... then just wait to graze on those plants until they have released most of their payload of deadly chemical. PROBLEM SOLVED!

Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423941)

Why is General Motors producing grass?

It was already in the genome (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423949)

First it is doubtful the grass produces a free form of cyanide, the cyanide is most likely bound to a sugar like
it is in cherry pits and the like. During metabolism the cyanide is liberated when it is split from the sugar.
The interesting thing is the Triton85 has either a timer (so and so many seed / growth cycles) that expired
for the toxine producing genes to activate or there was some other external condition 'programmed' that activated
these genes.

Enjoy your future (or what little you will have of it), humans.

Re:It was already in the genome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423963)

Enjoy your Monsanto corn at Walmart btw... that may have other goodies hidden in it as well but
really it is toxic and unbecoming as it is ... it produces a wonderful toxine that will give you cramps
while you shit your inflamed and cancerous intestines into the bowl. Again, enjoy your final days
human scum.

Re:It was already in the genome (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 2 years ago | (#40423989)

Ah yes, because a substance that doesn't become toxic until digested it is fine...

Re:It was already in the genome (4, Interesting)

Cyberax (705495) | about 2 years ago | (#40424031)

No, lots of plants produce cyanide (in form of free CN ions) all the time. Its mostly poisonous because it shuts down a key enzyme in mitochondria, but plants have an alternative pathway that is not affected by it. So they can tolerate much higher levels of CN ions (they are still poisonous via other mechanisms, though).

The famous example: cassava roots.

Re:It was already in the genome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424213)

No, lots of plants produce cyanide (in form of free CN ions) ...

Apple seeds also contain cyanide compounds,
    http://chemistry.about.com/b/2007/09/12/yes-apple-seeds-and-cherry-pits-are-poisonous.htm [about.com]

Re:It was already in the genome (2)

Cyberax (705495) | about 2 years ago | (#40424499)

Several nitpicks:
1) Cyanide compounds are not necessarily poisonous. Most organic compounds with bound CN group are totally harmless.
2) Your organism can tolerate fairly large amounts of CN ions just fine. In fact, it's produced as a by-product of several normal biochemical reactions.

Re:It was already in the genome (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#40424123)

Prussic acid poisoning [ndsu.edu] happens when conditions are right, and this farmer did everything right. And CBS is totally wrong calling an F1 hybrid "GM".

This proves science is bad (3, Insightful)

flibbidyfloo (451053) | about 2 years ago | (#40423951)

Something deadly like this could never naturally evolve in plants! This must be the work of unnatural, man-driven processes! Stop all science now! Anthropocentrism at its finest.

Re:This proves science is bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424005)

A joke right? There are plenty of poisonous plants. So evolved because the plants that aren't eaten have a better chance of producing new plants. . .

Re:This proves science is bad (2)

tbird81 (946205) | about 2 years ago | (#40424087)

It's as if producing cyanide has some sort of adaptive advantage to the grass. Why would Gaia do this? It's those evil scientists.

Here's some propaganda from HowStuffWorks, pretending that clover does the same thing:

"Some species of clover developed a mutation that caused the poison cyanide to form in the plant's cells. This gave the clover a bitter taste, making it less likely to be eaten. However, when the temperature drops below freezing, some cells ruptur, releasing the cyanide into the plant's tissues and killing the plant. In warm climates, natural selection acted in favor of the cyanide-producing clover, but where the winters are cold, non-cyanide clover was favored. Each kind exists almost exclusively in each climate area."

They're even teaching this stuff in public schools [google.com] !.

Re:This proves science is bad (2)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#40424591)

It's as if producing cyanide has some sort of adaptive advantage to the grass.

Correct. A good many plants create their own natural pesticides. Yeah, I know, citation needed, but google your own damned results, I'm not your high school biology teacher, dammit!

STOP THIS PSEUDO (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40423985)

STOP THIS PSEUDO SCIENCE!!! no more GM crops, it's just not smart.
and nobody can tell me it will increase crop yields because it will only increase infant mortality, because that IS THEIR GOAL...

Nice try CBS, but it's not GM (5, Informative)

daninaustin (985354) | about 2 years ago | (#40423987)

How many bloody times are you going to post this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40424141)

Talk about spam. STFU, daninaustin (985354)!

Mod pp -100: spam attack.

You should get dis-usered.

NOW they'll get off my lawn! (4, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#40424043)

Also:

"Moo!" (thud)

Know your GMO (0)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 2 years ago | (#40424107)

Ah, so this is why Monstersanto doesn't want GMO's labeled... Pride in what one produces be damned.

Re:Know your GMO (2)

yndrd1984 (730475) | about 2 years ago | (#40424223)

Ah, so this is why Monstersanto doesn't want GMO's labeled... Pride in what one produces be damned.

1. It isn't from Monsanto.

2. It isn't GM.

More mutations required (1)

fragMasterFlash (989911) | about 2 years ago | (#40424129)

This grass is obviously defective and should be replaced with a variety that produces equal parts cyanide and happiness. [explosm.net]

It's not GM (4, Funny)

Alien Being (18488) | about 2 years ago | (#40424151)

This is a cross of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play 36 holes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff.

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