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.