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USDA silencing researchers who try to warn about pesticides harming pollinators... Every agency silences its own scientists!


Government agencies

(NaturalNews) Evidence continues to emerge that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has mounted a sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation against its own scientists, in an effort to suppress data the agency considers politically problematic – particularly that which implicates pesticides in the collapse of pollinator populations.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has filed a lawsuit against the agency, alleging that the USDA ordered its researchers to water-down their findings or retract their published studies, as well as indefinitely delaying the publication of research, and retaliating against those that do not toe the party line. The suit cites 10 separate scientists targeted for such harassment; four of them were researching pollinators.

Protecting the pesticide industry

The poster child for the unfolding scandal is bee scientist Jonathan Lundgren, a highly respected scientist who the USDA actually named Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist in 2011. In 2014, Lundgren began publicly speaking out about research into the environmental dangers of the pesticide class known as neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoids, also known as neonics, were introduced in the late 1990s, and comprised 25 percent of the global pesticide market by 2008 (this figure may give an inaccurately low impression, as it considers all pesticides, not just insecticides. Widely used herbicides such as Roundup are therefore also counted as part of the "global pesticide market"). Neonics are systemic insecticides; they are applied to the seed, and then taken up into every tissue of the plant – rendering it toxic even to insects or birds who come in contact with its pollen or nectar.

Within weeks of Lundgren's interviews, the USDA unilaterally removed "pesticide risks" from the scope of his research. They then suspended him for three days, alleging unprofessional office conduct (which was denied by his employees). The following year, Lundgren published a paper showing that neonicotinoids harmed butterflies – after being subjected to numerous delays from his supervisors. He traveled to two professional conferences to discuss the findings. While traveling, he was ordered back to the office for having improperly filed his travel paperwork – the type of mistake that the USDA normally overlooks. He was suspended again, for two weeks.

Lundgren filed a whistleblower protection complaint with the agency, which it rejected. His appeal was also rejected.

Notably, Lundgren is the only scientist participating in the PEER lawsuit who has consented to be named. The others have remained anonymous, fearing more reprisals.

Another USDA scientist has recently spoken up about similar harassment. In 2014, bee scientist Jeffery Pettis testified before Congress about honeybee collapse. Despite having co-authored a key study showing that neonics poisoned bees, Pettis initially limited his testimony to the threat of the varroa mite. Pettis knew that his superiors didn't want him to talk about neonics, he said. But upon questioning from members of Congress, he admitted his concerns. He was demoted two months later.

Not just the USDA

Censorship of science that may alienate powerful industries is not limited to the USDA. As former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist David Lewis writes in his book, Science for Sale, the problem stems from the revolving door between government, industry and academia: "Government hires scientists to support its policies; industry hires them to support its business; and universities hire them to bring in grants that are handed out to support government policies and industry practices."

Lewis performed groundbreaking research into the health problems caused by an EPA program to use sewage sludge as fertilizer. The agency attempted to shut his research down, and he began publicly critiquing government interference with science, testifying on the issue before Congress. He was eventually fired.

Another prominent critic of political interference in science is FDA scientist David Graham, associate director of the Office of Drug Safety. In 2004, Graham experienced intense harassment from his superiors, after he was invited to testify before the Senate on the risks of the diabetes drug Vioxx (which was soon to be pulled from the market). His own superiors slandered him to certain Senators, to the editors of the Lancet (which was preparing to publish his research on Vioxx), and even to his attorney at a whistleblower protection nonprofit. When none of these measures worked, they offered him a new job in the Commissioner's Office if he would step down from the Office of Drug Safety.

Sometimes, the censorship works: in August 2014, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientist William Thompson was forced to admit that years before, he had manipulated data from a study prior to publication to conceal a link between the MMR vaccine and autism in black boys.

The problem is ongoing. According to a 2012 New York Times report, the FDA installed spy software to monitor the work and personal emails of at least five agency scientists who had expressed concern that some medical imaging devices were exposing consumers to unsafe levels of radiation.

And, according to EPA scientist Evaggelos Vallianatos, the practice goes back decades. In the 1970s, Vallianatos was one of many scientists to warn that the new generation of neurotoxic pesticides would cause ecological devastation. The scientists were ignored, and many of them were shunted off to less influential posts within the agency.

Sources for this article include:

EcoWatch.com

WashingtonPost.com

NaturalNews.com

NaturalNews.com

WhistleBlowers.org

MPRNews.org

Science.NaturalNews.com

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