Renewable Farming

Washington Post features USDA “censorship” case filed by ARS entomologist

Today the Washington Post published a report by Steve Volk detailing the Whistleblower complaint by Ag Research Service entomologist Jonathan Lundgren, who has actively warned of the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators.  Here’s the link to the Washington Post story.

Earlier, our “Healthy Farming News” section had linked to a similar report by Kansas City journalist Carey Gillam and published in a Harvest Public Media story. 

This is one of the rare instances of a government researcher daring to file an actual Whistleblower complaint to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Doing so means taking on a resilient federal establishment which can effectively stifle a government career. In Lundgren’s case, he’s being legally assisted by a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. This group, PEER, also carries a report on the Lundgren case. 

Typically, federal researchers stay well within the invisible boundaries on politically sensitive issues like adverse affects of pesticides, or GMO health issues. Example: At a reception in Washington, DC several years ago, I asked an EPA official in charge of chemical registrations whether they asked for any data on glyphosate’s effect on soil bacteria. The official claimed that wasn’t her area of responsibility, and quickly engaged in conversation with someone else.

One safe way of buffering corporate blowback in reporting studies which implicate adverse chemical effects is deliberate downplaying of conclusions.

Another insulation against persecution is to publish in non-US scientific journals. Although they may have less prestige, there’s also less persecution — particularly on GMO and glyphosate questions. Example: Two authors studying how bullfrog tadpoles respond to toxicity of atrazine, glyphosate and quinclorac chose to publish in an international journal, Springer, which is an open access journal. The authors described multiple stresses on tadpoles from the chemicals, and concluded: “Responses observed can be one of the factors responsible for the decline in the number of amphibians around the world.”   Here’s the link to a PDF of that study.

By Jerry  Carlson, Sept. 28, 2015