USDA Accused of Suppressing Research Linking Pesticide to Widespread Bee Deaths

Thursday, November 05, 2015
Jonathan Lundgren (photo: USDA)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been accused of burying research that shows a link between the death of honeybees and a widely used pesticide.


Jonathan Lundgren, a senior research entomologist at the USDA, made the accusation as part of his whistleblower case, claiming the agency retaliated against him after he said research shows neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics, have adverse effects on bees.


The research was produced by the Center for Food Safety, for which Lundgren peer-reviewed the work that said neonics were not as beneficial to farmers as other pest management systems. This type of pesticide is used on most corn, canola, soybean, cotton and wheat crops, making it a huge money-maker for chemical companies that produce it, such as Syngenta and Bayer AG.


In his complaint filed with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, Lundgren says his bosses at USDA began to “impede or deter his research and resultant publications” more than a year ago. He also has said the agency tried to keep him from speaking about his findings for political reasons and interfered with his ability to review the research of other scientists, The Washington Post reported.


Lundgren’s complaint says he was suspended for 30 days—later reduced to 14 days—for improperly submitting a paper to a peer-reviewed journal and for violation of travel policies, according to the Post. Lundgren contends he went through normal channels to have the paper approved for submission, and the travel issue involved a paperwork oversight.


According to the complaint, Lundgren began being harassed after doing an interview for NPR in late 2013 about an article he’d written. In April 2014, his supervisor told him there were allegations of misconduct against him. “This initiated five months of a wide-ranging and needlessly disruptive ‘investigation’ which was utter hell for me and my laboratory group,” Lundgren said in his complaint.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Whistleblower: USDA Suppressed Findings about a Pesticide That Could Endanger Bees (by Deena Shanker, Quartz)

Suspended USDA Researcher Alleges Agency Tried to Block his Research into Harmful Effects of Pesticides on Bees, Butterflies (by Steve Volk, Washington Post)

USDA Whistleblower Claims Censorship of Pesticide Research (Harvest Public Media)

Whistleblower Retaliation Narrative (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) (pdf)

Complaint of Violations of USDA Scientific Integrity Policy (Letter from Dr. Jonathan Lundgren to USDA) (pdf)

Federal Court Revokes EPA’s Approval of Insecticide Linked to Collapse of Bee Populations (by Ken Broder and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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