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Corruption watchdog demands investigation into harassment of USDA workers researching GMOs

Scientific corruption

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(NaturalNews) An anti-corruption public watchdog group has sent letters to the chairmen and ranking members of House and Senate agriculture committees in Washington, as well as the Department of Agriculture's inspector general, requesting an investigation regarding an alleged cover-up by agri- and biotech giant Monsanto.

In addition, the Oakland, California-based group, U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), is requesting a investigation into whether USDA scientists who don't kowtow to the pro-genetically modified organism school of thought pushed by the biotech colossus are being harassed when the results of their scientific work don't jibe with the GMO party line.

As reported by Corporate Crime Reporter, in recent days another organization, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, alleged that USDA scientists are subject to pressure and retaliation from managers for producing any research that could run afoul of agribusiness interests.

Intimidation, disapproval, punishment

PEER officials filed a rulemaking petition that seeks to "strengthen the USDA Scientific Integrity Policy. As noted in a PEER press release:

Adopted in 2013 under a directive from President Obama, the USDA Scientific Integrity Policy declares that its purpose is "to ensure the highest level of integrity in all aspects" of agency scientific endeavors. But PEER contends the policy falls far short of this goal, pointing, for example, at a vague gag order constraining any scientific work with policy implications:

"...scientists should refrain from making statements that could be construed as being judgments of or recommendations on USDA or any other federal government policy, either intentionally or inadvertently."

PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said his organization had gotten reports regarding treatment of USDA scientists; he said some have been ordered to retract studies, dilute scientific findings, take their names off of authorship of studies and endure a myriad of delays in the approval of papers for publication that managers had deemed controversial.

In addition, scientists identified in complaints lodged by the bio-agri-business industry often found themselves subjected to investigations, disapproval of what once were routine requests, disciplinary actions for minor rule infractions and intimidation from managers who were more concerned with making "stakeholders" happy.

"A largely invisible and toothless Scientific Integrity Policy enables corporate influence over critical USDA scientific research decisions," said Ruch, adding that the USDA policy pledges a web site that displays case-specific and other information, though no such site exists. "USDA's scientific integrity program is like a black hole, allowing no information to escape and no light to penetrate."

If the allegations are accurate, it's a big deal, say USRTK officials.

"No reason scientists should be targeted"

"If true, this is a major scandal at USDA," spokesman Gary Ruskin said, as quoted by Corporate Crime Reporter. "It is not the proper role of the USDA to engage in a cover up for Monsanto or other agrichemical companies.

"It is intolerable that the agribusiness and agrichemical should be able to interfere with USDA scientists and their work," Ruskin continued. "Those scientists work for the public, not Monsanto nor the agrichemical industry. They must be fully insulated from the political pressure of the agribusiness and agrichemical industries.

"It is crucial to the public interest that they do their work without industry harassment or obstruction. The integrity of the USDA is at stake," he concluded.

USRTK officials said the letters seek to urge House and Senate agriculture committee members, as well as the USDA inspector general, to conduct full investigations into alleged corporate influence in the science being generated by the department, and to publicly release any evidence of undue industry influence or malfeasance, as well as ensuring that such interference does not happen again.

"There is no reason why USDA scientists should labor under safeguards far inferior to those extended to their colleagues working inside other agencies," Ruch said. "To earn public credibility for its scientific work, USDA needs to spell out procedures by which political influences can be policed and scientists protected while allowing outside review of its handling of allegations and disagreements."





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