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Biotech Technology

Cyanide-Producing GM Grass Linked To Texas Cattle Deaths 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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Cyanide-Producing GM Grass Linked To Texas Cattle Deaths

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  • Holy f*** (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 23, 2012 @06:22PM (#40423793)

    This is scary movie nightmare stuff come true!!!

    Grass that kills!!!

  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @06:47PM (#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.
  • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @09:54PM (#40425373)

    There are actually some people who oppose hybrids already. I've encountered some real extreme heirloom crop zealots who believe that hybrids are generally bad things. Funny enough, people once said of hybrids, unknowingly foreshadowing what would later be said of GMOs, that they 'did violence to the plant' and they would 'befoul the soil'. Of course, we know know that hybridization ranks right up there with vaccination in terms of life saving technologies, and I have no idea how anyone could oppose something that the world could not get by without. Well, without being ignorant anyway, which no doubt they are.

    Fun fact: once there were people who opposed grafting, which is now used for pretty much every fruit tree. Johnny Appleseed was actually one of the, who believed that grafting was against the will of God, or some nonsense like that. He was something of a religious nut. Ironically because the trees he spread were seed grown and not grafted, they were only good for making applejack (well, I guess you could make other things out of them too, but take a wild guess as to what most people did with them back then). I guess grafting was ungodly but getting hammered on that stuff wasn't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @02:55AM (#40427011)

    Actually, a bigger problem with grasses w.r.t. grazing animals are endophytes. Most/all of your grass seed used in your yards, has endophytes in it. It helps keep it green later into the summer (compare to the patches of Poa annua that you try to get rid of all of the time), handle low water better, etc. But most of them cause all sorts of neato effects in grazing animals (e.g., rye grass staggers, hooves falling off on horses, etc.).

    While cyanide poisoning is a potential problem with any variety of grass, let's guess how common it is in practice...

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