Several weeks ago in Elgin, Texas, a herd of cattle “mysteriously” died. The culprit was Tifton 85, a type of grass that has been grown down there for the last 15 years. CBS News reported, “The grass is a genetically-modified form of Bermuda known as Tifton 85…” They were wrong. Tifton 85 is a conventional hybrid, not a GMO.
According to the Texas Agricultural Service:
“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.”
What happened was the grass started spontaneously producing cyanide gas. Texas has been experiencing a drought and there is a connection. During droughts, some grasses like Tifton 85 can produce high concentrations of cyanide.
This page from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension explains what can happen:
Prussic Acid (Cyanide) Poisoning
“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). Sudangrass has low levels of this compound and rarely kills animals. Sorghum has the highest levels and sorghum-sudangrasses are intermediate. There is also considerable varietal difference in prussic acid content for all types of sorghums.”
“High levels of nitrogen fertilizer will increase the likelihood of prussic acid poisoning as well as nitrate poisoning. Very dark green plant growth often contains higher levels of prussic acid.”
“Most prussic acid is lost during the curing process. Therefore hay and silage are seldom toxic even if the original forage was. Do not leave green chop in a wagon over night and then feed. The heat that occurs will cause a release of prussic and make the feed more likely to be toxic.
Individual animals vary in susceptibility to prussic acid poisoning. Cattle are more susceptible than sheep. Animals receiving grain with the pasture are less likely to be affected.”
Other internet outlets have picked up the story and as of Sunday, CBS has not corrected their story.
Although this event wasn’t GMO related, it will probably be repeated for eternity on all the anti-GMO wesbites.