Organic Consumers Association

Tell the USDA: Let Pesticide and Bee Researchers Do Their Jobs. Stop Suppressing Science!

Dr. Jonathan Lundgren was once considered to have a “stellar” career at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), even earning the agency’s Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist title in 2011.

But ever since Lundgren went public with some of his findings about neonicotinoids, the class of pesticides linked to Colony Collapse Disorder, Lundgren says he has been the target of harassment and retaliation.

TAKE ACTION! Tell the USDA to stop suppressing science. Let researchers do their job!

You might think that the USDA hires the best scientists, to do the most reliable, unbiased research, in order to protect the public.

But Lundgren’s story reads more like a story of the USDA suppressing the research of its own scientists, in order to protect corporate profits. The neonicotinoid industry, dominated by Bayer and Syngenta, is worth about $1.9 billion. Many of the genetically engineered seeds sold by Monsanto are pre-coated with neonics.

In August 2015, the USDA suspended Lundgren for 30 days (later reduced to 14 days) after he complained that the USDA was blocking his research on the harmful effects of neonicotinoids on monarch butterfly and honeybee populations.

Lundgren’s work focuses on the relationship between cropping systems and insects. He is the author of a study, published in the scientific journal “The Science of Nature,” on how corn seeds coated with clothianidin, a neonic, continue to negatively impact milkweed plants months after the seeds are planted. Milkweed is essential to the survival of the monarch butterfly.

After that study appeared, and after Lundgren shared results of the study and other of his research efforts, including those claiming that farmers receive no benefit from seeds pre-coated in neonics, the trouble began.

According to a report in Civil Eats:

After Lundgren spoke out about some of his findings, USDA managers blocked publication of his research, barred him from talking to the media, and disrupted operations at the laboratory he oversaw, according to the complaint filed with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board Wednesday. The filing follows an internal complaint Lundgren lodged with USDA in September 2014.

Lundgren took his complaints to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER filed a whistleblower complaint on Lundgren’s behalf. The group also filed a lawsuit against the USDA, targeting the agency’s Scientific Integrity Policy

According to PEER:

More than 10 USDA scientists “have faced consequences or investigations when their work called into question the health and safety of agricultural chemicals. These scientists documented clear actions that violated their scientific integrity, including USDA officials retracting studies, watering down findings, removing scientists’ names from authorship and delaying approvals for publication of research papers.

One senior USDA scientist told Reuters, “Your words are changed, your papers are censored or edited and you are not allowed to submit them at all.”

In May 2015, OCA was one of 28 organizations that signed on to an open letter calling for the USDA to conduct a public and thorough investigation into the harassment and censorship/suppression of glyphosate and neonicotinoid research by Dr. Lungren and other USDA researchers by supervisors.

TAKE ACTION! Tell the USDA to stop suppressing science. Let researchers do their job!