USDA Bee Scientist Alleges He Was Punished For Reporting On Neonicotinoids

USDA Whistleblower Case
Photo credit: Dan Gunderson, MPR News file

The debate over the long-term effects of neonicotinoids on the health of bees and butterflies is now making waves at USDA.

A recent report from Minnesota National Public Radio profiles a whistleblower complaint filed by entomologist Jonathan Lundgren, a scientist at USDA’s Agricultural Research facility in Brookings, S.D.

Lundgren’s complaint, which is being represented by the Washington, D.C.-based group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), claims that when Lundgren began to study how neonicotinoid insecticides affect bees and other beneficial insects, his research and work travel began falling under intense scrutiny, which later led to Lundgren being suspended for violating agency protocols.

Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, argues that pressure from the pesticide industry has led USDA to stifle scientists like Lundgren. He had no evidence, but said the complaint will let attorneys seek information and interview USDA officials about the Lundgren case. He believes that work will prove USDA targeted Lundgren because of his neonicotinoid research.

According to the Minnesota National Public Radio report, a USDA spokesperson said that while the agency can’t discuss individual cases, it takes scientific integrity seriously.

“We fully review allegations of wrong-doing and make the results of those reviews available to the public online.” USDA, he added, has “procedures for staff to report any perceived interference with their work, seek resolution, and receive protection from recourse for doing so.”

Earlier this year, Lundgren 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.

Check out the full report presented on Minnesota National Public Radio on October 28, which also includes an audio version of the story.

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13 comments on “USDA Bee Scientist Alleges He Was Punished For Reporting On Neonicotinoids

  1. The USDA takes scientific integrity seriously is the joke of the year the USDA like the EPA is an extension of the pesticide industry and will punish anyone who interferes with their profits. I wish Jonathan Lundgren the best of luck going against these corrupt SOB’s

    1. No one is apply neonics to milkweed on purpose. Though the linked article does not specify it, corn seed is often treated with a powder form of neonics that can inadvertently spread via dust when planting corn seed. Any subsequent applications of neonics to the corn can inadvertently find its way to the milkweed. Milkweed is often found growing along borders of corn fields, the last remaining areas for its growth since the rest of the land is devoted to corn.

    2. The problem is that only about 5% of this nerve poison is taken up by the target plants, being water soluble the rest of it moves in the ground and is taken up by none target flowering plants which are attractive to bees and butterflies. Depending on the soil these nerve poisons can remain in the ground for years.

      1. There is no credible peer reviewed scientific research that supports or indicates a link to this theory as a causative factor in bee colony collapse. So far, that is speculative at best and persistent rumor mongering at worst.

      2. Is there any study showing neonicotinoids can persist for years in soil? That was a problem with chlorinated hydrocarbon type pesticides but does not seem possible for neonicotinoids.

  2. It should not be news to anyone that insecticides will kill insects. That is what they are designed to do. The object is to use them on target insects and not indiscriminately…..

      1. The Harvard study “treated the hives with” the neonics. What did they expect? The bees to grow healthier? There has been no decline in Australia, yet they use neonics extensively. What they don’t have are the V. mites. Further bee population/colonies are up 20% this year. These peer reviewed studies are not reliable and in the end, prove nothing.

  3. Lundgren was travelling at taxpayer expense without supervisory approval to discuss his research which hadn’t been peer reviewed, and using his official gov’t email for personal use? The MPR article provides this info, Had I done this when I worked for the government, it would have been an automatic 30 day suspension without pay and quite possibly a desk assignment.

  4. Any Scientist knows that their Research has to stand the test of time, and that the experiment can be replicated by others with similar results. It is irresponsible to conclude results from a single experiment, and to conclude or assume that the problem has been solved; such as “The reason the Monarchs have vanished is because Neonics were used nearby”.

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