FIGHTBACK by Sylvia Weinstein: A Fungus Among Us

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FIGHTBACK by Sylvia Weinstein

A Fungus Among Us

Reading the morning newspaper is enough to strike fear in the hearts and minds of everyone of us. In The New York Times of July 27, there are two stories on the first page that should shake us out of morning lethargy.

First is the story that the Environmental Protection Agency will ask the government to pass legislation to remove the additive MTBE from gasoline because it is polluting our drinking water. It was supposed to make our air less poisonous to breathe.

The gasoline companies, which increased the cost per gallon when they added MTBE, are now going to raise the price per gallon for taking the poison out. Either way the oil companies win. We lose.

In 1990 Congress passed rules that oil companies put an oxygenate, (a chemical that incorporates an oxygen atom) in gasoline to promote more thorough burning in engines. Most oil companies chose the ingredient known as MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether.

What was designed to clean the air has turned into a poison in our drinking water. Five to ten percent of our drinking water is contaminated with MTBE, which has proven to be a carcinogen by the EPA because it has caused cancer in animals.

The poison affects small children the most. Especially small children who drink water in their bottles with formula.

Why wasn’t this tested before it was added to gasoline? Why does the government use the population as laboratory rats for its experiments.?

Now comes an even bigger danger-a fungus designed to be dropped from a plane onto marijuana plants.

For years drug agents have been stalking the marijuana crops growing in Florida. Now the “brains” of the state’s Office of Drug Control think they have the solution. They are planning to dust suspected areas with a marijuana-eating, soil-borne fungus called Fusarium oxysporum.

The fungus, a bioherbicide engineered specifically to attack plants like marijuana, is otherwise “harmless,” insists the Montana company that developed it.

Jim McDonough, who was hired by Gov. Jeb Bush to head Florida’s Office of Drug Control, is considering a plan to use the fungus. (Gov. Bush was involved in the great Savings and Loan debacle several years ago, and we are still paying for that!)

Now that McDonough is beginning to encounter strong criticism by many environmentalists for the fungus proposal, he vows that the fungus will not be used until it is tested in rigidly controlled conditions at a Florida site.

David Struhs, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, spelled out the dangers in a letter to Mr. McDonough dated April 6, 1999.

“Fusarium species,” he wrote, “are capable of evolving rapidly. Mutagenicity is by far the most disturbing factor in attempting to use a Fusarium species as a bioherbicide. It is difficult, if not impossible, to control Fusarium species.”

“I personally do not like the idea of messing with mother nature,” said Bill Graves, senior biologist at the University of Florida Research Center in Homestead, Fla.

“I believe it’s going to create its own problems. If it isn’t executed effectively, it’s going to target and kill rare and endangered plants.

The mutated fungi can also cause disease in large numbers of crops-including tomatoes, peppers, flowers, corn, and vines.

In Peru, angry farmers have recently accused the United States of using a soil fungus to destroy coca in the Upper Huallaga Valley, saying that fungus has spread to banana, yucca, tangerine, and other food crops.

So in reality, the United States has already tested its fungus in Third World countries. Now they are ready to test it on us.

History shows that if there is a profit to be made from DDT, MTBE, or any other poison, then capitalists will be ready to use it. All it has to be is profitable.

Socialist Action /July 1999

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