Crop Disease Portends Famine for Asia, Africa

From the June 2007 Trumpet Print Edition

Millions of people face starvation following an outbreak of a new strain of wheat fungus in Africa and Asia, scientists say. This deadly strain of crop disease, known as black stem rust, can destroy entire wheat fields. “This thing has immense potential for social and human destruction,” said international agriculture expert and Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug (The Observer, April 22).

Black stem rust has already laid waste to wheat harvests in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia—though it hasn’t yet contributed to major food or social problems in these countries because wheat isn’t a staple crop for most of East Africa.

Unfortunately for the rest of the world, however, the fungus can spread easily. Wind carries the spores over long distances: They have already blown across the Red Sea into the Arabian Peninsula and infected wheat fields in Yemen. Some observers warn that the wheat fungus could reach Egypt, which depends heavily on wheat, by the end of this year. Experts believe the spores will continue to spread into the Middle East, Pakistan and India, destroying a major source of food for more than a billion people.

Rick Ward, coordinator of the Global Rust Initiative, fears that if new rust-resistant wheat varieties aren’t developed soon, then devastating losses of wheat production in places like Egypt will “trigger all sorts of destabilizing effects, ones that could have profound implications for the West” (Reuters, April 23).

The director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says the wheat fungus has potential to cause a global crop epidemic, leading to “increased wheat prices and local or regional food shortages.”

Black stem rust has plagued wheat fields throughout the centuries, causing destruction of biblical proportions. Ward believes that when the “Bible talks about plagues afflicting crops” that these “are almost certainly references to stem rust.” In the past, an outbreak would wipe out entire harvests every few years, transforming ripening wheat into a mass of blackened vegetation and spreading throughout continents in a matter of months.

Scientists developed resistant varieties of wheat during the 1960s, causing the wheat fungus to disappear from most farms. But the new strain of fungus, known as Ug99, is resistant to these defensive measures. Up to 80 percent of all wheat varieties planted in Asia and Africa are estimated to be susceptible to Ug99.

Bible prophecy tells us the world will soon be afflicted by worldwide famine. Although scientists are capable of developing disease-resistant varieties of grain, Ug99 proves that the world is not immune to crop epidemics. There is only one sure way to prevent the destruction that these epidemics are destined to create. To find out what that 100 percent reliable countermeasure is, and to learn more about the prophesied global famine and food shortages, request our free booklet The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.