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Agricultural News

Oklahoma Agriculture United Over Castor Bean Concerns

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 05:43:04 CDT

Oklahoma Agriculture United Over Castor Bean Concerns Agribusiness and farm and ranch organizations are speaking with one voice- voicing major concerns about the production of Castor beans in the state of Oklahoma.

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe in Red Rock has partnered with a group of out-of-state financiers to begin working on a project to grow 15,000 acres of castor beans and then convert them to biofuels. The tribe has already purchased the grain elevator in Red Rock and would like to eventually operate 16 plants around the state, with 15,000 acres of castor beans in each area.

Castor beans contain the toxin, ricin, which is extremely dan-gerous and fatal if consumed, inhaled or injected. Ricin is illegal to possess and has been used as a weapon worldwide since the 1940's. If found in wheat, soybeans or other food grains, a single castor bean seed would cause the entire field, truck or elevator to be condemned.

The Radio Oklahoma Network talked with several agricultural leaders in the state at the end of this past week- and they all expressed worries about castor bean production- all citing the fears of ricin being produced in the state. Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear our audio overview of our conversations with Terry Detrick of the AFR, Scott Dewald of the OCA and Joe Neal Hampton of the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association.

Hampton's group issued a news release on Friday about a resolution they have adopted- calling for a total ban on the production of any crop that contains toxic levels of ricin- which would include Castor Beans. Here is that release:

Citing an unacceptable risk to the integrity, security and safety of a wide variety of cultivated agricultural commodities within our state and the food and feed processed products made from them, the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association, the Oklahoma Agribusiness Retailers Association, and the Oklahoma Seed Trade Association have each adopted the following resolution:

Be it resolved that the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association, the Oklahoma Agribusiness Retailers Association, and the Oklahoma Seed Trade Association do not, and will not, support castor bean cultivation and production within the State of Oklahoma until such time as cultivated castor seed, and its components, are scientifically considered non-toxic.

Of concern to the industry is that the castor bean contains a protein RICIN, which is a deadly toxin that can kill mammals, birds, and humans if ingested even in trace quantities. The toxin is seven times more deadly than cobra venom, 6000 times more potent than cyanide. Ricin also remains in the seed meal after the oil is extracted. Even handling the seed or meal can result in accidental poisoning. Castor also produces an allergen to which some people may have an allergic reaction.

Castor must not be mixed with any food or feed grain or any other crop that might be used for human or animal consumption. Under current U.S. grading standards, only two beans in a 2.2 lb. sample would cause the entire load of grain to be rejected and could cause a disproportionate concern about all grains from regions or areas where castor is commercially grown. Notification of the contaminated load of grain must be sent to the Food and Drug Administration.

Combines that are used to harvest castor beans could provide a significant risk for future contamination. There could always be a few castor beans lodged in the machine, and 1000 acres later a seed could come out in another grain causing the entire load to be contaminated. U.S. grain exporters say that most all countries specify that not a single castor bean can be allowed in a cargo shipment of grain.

In our conversations about Castor Beans- several mentions of ricin being used as a terrorist weapon was mentioned- click here for a story from CNN that details some of the use of Ricin as an agent of death.

However, when you do a web search on Castor Beans- you find lots of fans of this quick growing heat loving plant- they are used widely as an ornamental. Click here to see an online ad from Better Homes and Gardens touting the Castor Bean plant as a wonderful plant for the yard- just don't let the kids


Ron Hays offers an audio overview of ag leaders in Oklahoma expressing worries that commercial Castor Bean production in Oklahoma could be devastating and deadly.
right-click to download mp3


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