The USDA has targeted one of their entomologists, Dr. Jonathan Lundgren for publishing results that indicate that neonictinoids are harmful to bees and butterflies.
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Dr. Lundgren has an impressive CV and a long list of publications, many peer reviewed. In 2011 the USDA even named him its Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist in 2011. He has been with them for 11 years.
Lundgren claims his trouble started in early 2014 when he began to talk publicly about negative effects of neonicotinoids. He reviewed a study by the Center for Food Safety. The study was critical of overuse of neonicotinoids on crops. He also did media interviews about the topic.
Earlier this year Lundgren again ran afoul of USDA supervisors.
He wrote a paper on research that showed neonicotinoid insecticides killed or stunted growth of monarch butterfly larvae. Monarch populations have plummeted in recent years because of habitat loss. Lundgren’s research showed milkweed plants growing near farm fields treated with the insecticide could harm monarch larvae.
Given his treatment by the USDA, Lungren filed a whistleblower complaint and is being represented by PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
“Having research published in prestigious journals and being invited to present before the National Academy of Sciences should be sources of official pride, not punishment,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Laura Dumais, who today filed Dr. Lundgren’s whistleblower retaliation complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board, the federal civil service tribunal. “Politics inside USDA have made entomology a high risk specialty.”
Dr. Lundgren’s whistleblower complaint triggers sworn depositions and other discovery leading up to an evidentiary hearing. The resulting ruling can be appealed to the three-member Merits Systems Protection Board and from there to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Dr. Lundgren’s case even got attention in The Washington Post.
In addition to the above facts, the Post added this:
A paper published in Environmental Science & Policy, with the sole listed author Scott W. Fausti, includes the following footnote: “I would like to acknowledge Dr. Jonathan G. Lundgren’s contribution to this manuscript. Dr. Lundgren is an entomologist employed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS). However, the ARS has required Dr. Lundgren to remove his name as joint first author from this article. I believe this action raises a serious question concerning policy neutrality toward scientific inquiry.”
There are other articles wondering about the role of corporations like Monsanto in influencing the USDA and any actions against Lundgren. I haven’t linked to them as they are speculative. This whole sorry saga does make me wonder if any actual scientists are safe from the whole denial movement. If we can’t listen to scientists, how in the world will we create a better future?
It is not clear how to help Dr. Lundgren other than donating to PEER. I have also written to both my senators linking this post and asking them to please follow-up on Dr. Lindgren’s whistle blower complaint.