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How Is a Grass Producing Cyanide Gas That's Killing Cows in Texas?

US

"...the same as they used in the gas chambers in Germany."

A few weeks ago, only three cows from a herd of 15 remained alive after the other dozen were poisoned by grass producing a toxic gas.

The grass, according to Reuters, is a bermuda grass hybrid -- Tifton 85 -- which is planted across the state of Texas. The cows at the ranch outside of Austin were put to pasture and within a few hours, owner Jerry Abel said bellowing could be heard coming from the field. When he and other hands reached the field, they found the cows convulsing or already dead.

"That was very traumatic to see, because there was nothing you could do, obviously, they were dying," said Abel to CBS News.

Abel said he has the field planted with Tifton 85 for 15 years and hasn't had a problem. What scientists found was that the grass somehow began to produce cyanide gas.

Veterinarian Gary Warner was reported by CBS News as saying they're concerned the extreme drought the last two years could have caused the hybrid grass' genes to modify in such a way that would produce the toxic gas. It has not been formally confirmed nor denied that the grass mutated to produce the poison.

Other fields have tested positive for having the poison present but no other cattle has been reported to have died from this cause yet.

"We do know the cattle died from prussic acid poisoning and we know the grass tested positive for prussic acid," said Warner, according to Reuters. "It is the same as cyanide poisoning, the same as they used in the gas chambers in Germany."

Tifton 85 was first produced as a hybrid grass in the 1990s by the University of Georgia. To be clear, it is important to note that the grass is a hybrid, not a genetically modified organism.
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