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The following is a letter by Dr. Childers to the Fruit Growers News which addresses the Foundation's concern with the Bt toxin in food plants.  It was published in the Fruit Growers News Vol. 11  November 2000. (a publication for commercial fruit growers and others related to the fruit industry covering timely issues affecting growers across the nation, along with featuring top-notch operations and hosting columns from numerous Extension and university specialists) 


To the editor:

I have read your opinion columns and there seems to be a strong favor for all genetically modified food among media editors.
I've had a lot of experience with fruit growers and what they do over some 70 years.  I would say one thing the non-ag gene scientists have done is a stupid mistake - the Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) gene shift to staple foods.
Farmers should know what goes on in the scientific world before they could take big losses.  This whole problem is essentially due to the gradual demise of the trustworthy information from the land grant college system in state universities.
You may know of my work on the side trying to help arthritics by avoiding the Solanaceae (nightshade family of plants).  Since the 1950's, when I discovered the relationship at Rutgers with my own problem, I have had up to 5,000 on my mailing list and now have about 3,800.
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 from their diets.  I had trouble with a swollen right hand in the summer of 1999:  hot, hurt, fingers 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 sweet 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 woke up one morning and could hardly get out of bed from paralysis of the lower body.  I was three days on a cane until I could wash it out of my system with a lot of water.  I went through all the checkups later and apparently it was not a stroke.  I traced my food and found they had dipped mixed nuts in cottonseed oil and I liked them, eating several handfuls the evening before, with no evening meal.  That stuff was powerful.  The toxins seem to be fat soluble and oils retain them very well.
Then reports began coming in from my Diet cooperators.  The media does not report any people's symptoms, it seems.  We as arthritics may be more susceptible to something like this - cholinesterase inhibitors - which is probably how the toxin kills insects along with disrupting their guts (USDA report).  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 more than 10% of the population, although nearly all older people get it if they live over 60 or 70 years.
I wish the scientists, who 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 performance in food production.  
We need to talk more about the land grant college system and try to get back the public 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 Childers
University of Florida 
Gainesville, Fla.