Sit back, friends. I’ve got a story for you. (Spoiler alert, it involves pesticides, pollinators, USDA protection of Big Ag interests, and the failure of the US government to protect whistleblowers.)
“Politics inside USDA have made entomology a high risk specialty.”
In early 2015, USDA scientist, Dr. Jonathon Lundgren submitted his research on pesticides and pollinators to a peer-reviewed journal. In response, supervisors at the USDA suspended Dr. Lundgren under the pretense that has research had unearthed “sensitive information” that had not yet been approved for publication.
What could be so sensitive you ask? Dr. Lundgren had found that clothianidin, a neonicotinoid seed treatment (pesticide), kills monarch butterfly larvae in the laboratory.
It doesn’t sound that surprising, does it? Either that a crop treatment would adversely affect pollinators or that the USDA would be reluctant to publish the information. But it gets better.
It turns out that Dr. Lundgren is whistleblower, who in September 2014 had lodged a formal complaint against the USDA for serious alleged violations of the agency’s Scientific Integrity Policy, including attempts by senior officials to impede or deter Lundgren’s research. He believes– and we are inclined to believe him– that his 14-day suspension is a direct retaliation to that action and to the threat his research poses to big ag.