Today’s scariest story…

It has nothing to do with terrorism, nukes or Ahmadinejad. It’s wheat fungus. The L.A. Times reports: Crop scientists fear the Ug99 fungus could wipe out more than 80% of worldwide wheat crops as it spreads from eastern Africa. It has already jumped the Red Sea and traveled as far as Iran. Experts say it ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
584905_090615_wheat2.jpg
584905_090615_wheat2.jpg
JINSAFUT, WEST BANK - JUNE 08: A Palestinian woman harvests her family's wheat on June 8, 2009 in their village of Jinsafut in the West Bank. US President Barack Obama?s Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, began his latest round of talks in the region echoing Washington's demand for "immediate" peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

It has nothing to do with terrorism, nukes or Ahmadinejad. It's wheat fungus.

The L.A. Times reports:

It has nothing to do with terrorism, nukes or Ahmadinejad. It’s wheat fungus.

The L.A. Times reports:

Crop scientists fear the Ug99 fungus could wipe out more than 80% of worldwide wheat crops as it spreads from eastern Africa. It has already jumped the Red Sea and traveled as far as Iran. Experts say it is poised to enter the breadbasket of northern India and Pakistan, and the wind will inevitably carry it to Russia, China and even North America — if it doesn’t hitch a ride with people first.

“It’s a time bomb,” said Jim Peterson, a professor of wheat breeding and genetics at Oregon State University in Corvallis. “It moves in the air, it can move in clothing on an airplane. We know it’s going to be here. It’s a matter of how long it’s going to take.”

Though most Americans have never heard of it, Ug99 — a type of fungus called stem rust because it produces reddish-brown flakes on plant stalks — is the No. 1 threat to the world’s most widely grown crop.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico estimates that 19% of the world’s wheat, which provides food for 1 billion people in Asia and Africa, is in imminent danger. American plant breeders say $10 billion worth of wheat would be destroyed if the fungus suddenly made its way to U.S. fields.

Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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