USDA under fire for mistreating pesticide researchers
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was hit with some negative PR after they tried to censor research published by their entomologist, Jonathan Lundgren.
Lundgren’s research found that monarch butterflies and bees can be negatively affected by a commonly used class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Before his research started, Lundgren was a well respected scientist at the USDA, where he was named Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist in 2011. According to Lundgren, once his pesticide research started, his supervisors tried to stifle his work by harassing him and trying to prevent him from speaking out about his findings. On Wednesday, Lundgren filed a whistleblower complaint against the USDA for punishing him over his findings.
“Once he started publishing this work, he went from golden boy to pariah, and that’s what this case is about,” said Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibilities (PEER).
Why did the USDA chastise Lundgren for his research? Ruch claims that the USDA was faced with pressure from the pesticide industry to silence Lundgren, but there is no evidence to back the allegation. Whether or not this is true, they tried to cover up research that could help save bees , and now the USDA is getting some bad PR for their dishonesty. Supporting further research on the effects of pesticides on bees may be the only way they can help reduce the public outrage.
This isn’t the first time a scientist has gone to PEER with a complaint about harassment over pesticide research. Many scientists and beekeepers have been outspoken about their support for Lundgren’s decision to go public with the matter. Now that the harassment is out in the open, the USDA will want to react by finding out who is responsible for the mistreatment of pesticide researchers, putting a stop to it, and taking action to find out if pesticides truly are negatively affecting pollinating bee and butterfly populations.
Can Lundgren win in court? How should the USDA react to Lundgren’s findings? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.