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Poisoned Grain Kills

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Poisoned Grain Kills

NEW YORK (LNS)--As many as 400 people are dead, and Iraqui hospitals are jammed with others suffering brain damage, blindness, and paralysis- all victims of mercury poisoning.

The epidemic started last February when a shipment of wheat seeds arrived from the United States or Canada and was distributed among the farmers of the country in an effort to counteract a drought that seriously affected crops last summer. Peasants fed the grain directly to cattle instead of planting it.

When the cattle began to show symptoms of poisoning, they were sent to the slaughterhouse and sold as meat. People who ate the meat were poisoned.

When people realized that wheat was killing them, they dumped large quantities of it and the pollution spread even further and at least one village that depends on fish from the Tigris was practically wiped out.

Mercury has served for a long time to protect seeds from insects and fungus and the bags warn against their use outside of planting. Nobody seemed to realize that very few Iraqui peasants would be able to read the warning.

As a result of growing concern over mercury and its side effects, the practice of coating seeds with it has been cut back in recent years. Nevertheless, cases like the one in Iraq happen frequently, although not in such a large scale.

In New Mexico, two years ago, three of the children in a hog-raising family suffered severe brain damage after having eaten pork from animals fed with treated seed grain.