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The following is a letter by Dr. Childers to the American Society of Horticultural Sciences which addresses the Foundation's concern with the Bt toxin in food plants.  It was published in the ASHS Newsletter Vol. 16(7) July 2000. (distributed worldwide to over 5000 ASHS members who are mainly horticultural scientists) 


I read John Kelly's recent article in the ASHS Newsletter (May 2000) on genetically modified (GM) food.  You may know of my work on the side trying to help arthritics by avoiding the Solanaceae.  Since the 1950's when I discovered the relationship at Rutgers with my own problem, I have had up to 5000 on my mailing list over the world and now have about 3800.  Over the past few years, we have been having problems with something mysteriously in our food not related to nightshades, since most cooperators have eliminated them in their diets.  I had trouble with a swollen right hand in Summer 1999: hot, hurt, finger cracked when moved up and down, etc.  Nothing seemed to get rid of it until I learned of the Bt toxin in corn and soybeans.  I was behind on my reading.  I was eating a lot of corn and seemed to have gotten the Bt toxin there since when I ceased corn and soy products as best I could, the problem decreased but never went away since I'm getting thinner trying to avoid these foods almost across the board.  Later, I got up one morning and could hardly get out of bed from paralysis of the lower body.  Lasted three days on a cane until I could wash it out with lots of water.  I went through all the checkups later and apparently it was not a stroke.  Traced my food and found they had dipped mixed nuts in cottonseed oil and I liked them, eating several handfuls the night before with no evening meal.  That stuff was powerful.  Oil seems to retain whatever very well.  Then reports began coming in from cooperators.  The media does not report people's symptoms, it seems.  We as arthritics may be more susceptible to something like this- cholinesterase inhibitors- which is probably how this toxin kills insects along with disrupting their guts (USDA reports).  We talk about this only among ourselves and try as best we can to avoid the GM foods.  Horticultural leaders should know of our experiences since arthritics make up over 10% of the population, although nearly all older people get it if they live over 60 or 70 years.  I wish the scientists, which in this case apparently know little about agricultural procedures, would run some animal feeding tests before they try the foods on us as guinea pigs.  Of course, here again are the big corporations taking over the production and safety of our food to make BIG money, and the gradual demise of our world-famous land-grant college (LGC) performance in food production.
We need to talk more about the LGC system and try to get back the public money we got to operate them.  If farmers know what happened, they may fight to get it back for their own benefit as well as ours.  But I do believe we need first also to educate our own faculty and particularly the Ag deans and directors today.

Norman F. Childers
Horticultural Sciences Dept.
University of Florida, Gainesville