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Daily News Blog

10
Mar

“Muzzled” USDA Scientist to Speak at National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2016) Jonathan Lundgren, Ph.D., a top U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist who received a prestigious national award for civic courage  for his work on neonicotinoids and pollinator decline in the face of agency attempts to suppress his work, will be speaking at Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, the 34th National Pesticide Forum, April 15-16, 2016 in Portland, ME. Dr. Lundgren will join other top scientists and leaders who have stood up to protect human and environmental health, despite facing industry backlash and scientific suppression. His story was recently featured in Sunday’s The Washington Post Magazine, Was a USDA Scientist Muzzled Because of His Bee Research, as censorship of federal scientists has grown.

As a Senior Research Entomologist and Lab Supervisor for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in South Dakota, Dr. Lundgren had worked for USDA for eleven years with great success, with his research drawing national attention and international recognition. However, in October 2015, Dr. Lundgren, represented by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a whistleblower complaint charging the agency with suppression of research findings that challenged the safety and efficacy of a widely used class of pesticides, neonicotinoids.

In April 2015, PEER filed a petition for rulemaking with USDA, urging the agency to strengthen its Scientific Integrity Policy and adopt best practices used in other federal agencies in order to prevent politicized suppression or alteration of studies. The group claims that at least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or have faced other consequences as a result of research questioning the safety of certain pesticides. The current policy disallows scientists from “making statements that could be construed as being judgments of or recommendations on USDA or any other federal policy, either intentionally or inadvertently.”

Although a USDA scientific integrity review panel recently rejected Dr. Lundgren’s complaint, the USDA Office of the Inspector General indicated it will open a wide-ranging investigation into scientific censorship within the agency.

Dr. Lundgren’s research on the harm neonicotinoids pose to monarch butterflies reflects a growing scientific consensus that these chemicals present significant risks to declining pollinator populations. However, as stated in the complaint, despite receiving approval for the paper through proper protocols, higher-ups at USDA deemed the research “sensitive,” and claimed that Dr. Lundgren had not received approval to publish the study.

In response to the growing suppression of scientific work, a coalition of more than 50 sustainable agriculture, environmental, beekeeper, and public interest organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, is pressing the agency for overdue reforms. The coalition sent a letter to USDA Tuesday expressing growing concerns over the alleged suppression, harassment, and censorship of agency scientists, particularly with regard to research showing harms to pollinators from certain pesticides, a controversial topic in the agriculture community. In addition, Beyond Pesticides will join other groups today to deliver petition signatures urging the USDA to stop silencing its own scientists and suppressing research findings on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, and urging the resignation of Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary for USDA’s Research Education and Economics mission area, who is ultimately responsible for this suppression.

Next month, Dr. Lundgren will join other top scientists at the 34th National Pesticide Forum, including Aaron Blair, Ph.D., a National Cancer Institute researcher (emeritus), who has authored over 450 publications on occupational and environmental causes of cancer,  and served as the overall chair of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) evaluation panel which found that  one of the most widely used herbicides, glyphosate (Roundup), is a carcinogen. He also joins other notable leaders who have stood up to protect the public against a culture of putting industry profits first, including Jim Gerritsen, a Maine organic for over 38 years, and president of the national farmer-run membership trade organization, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), which served as lead plaintiff in the landmark organic community federal lawsuit, OSGATA et al. v. Monsanto.

Cultivating Community and Environmental Health, is the 34th National Pesticide Forum, and is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Toxics Action Center, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), and University of Southern Maine Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Co-sponsors include: Environment America, Food and Water Watch Maine, Friends of Casco Bay, GreenCAPE, Organic Consumers Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine, Portland Pollinator Partnership, Portland Protectors, and Regeneration International.

This national environmental conference, which will be held April 15-16, 2016 at the University of Southern Maine will feature panel discussions, workshops and keynote talks. Registration, which includes access to all sessions as well as organic food and beverages, is $45 for grassroots activists, and $25 for students. Register online today.

For more information on the program go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

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