A prominent scientist recently exercised his whistleblowing rights from within the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. The agency said that the scientists claim is ‘frivolous,’ but a judge says that his claim is serious, and will NOT be dismissed.
Judge Patricia M. Miller, an administrative judge with the Merit Systems Protection Board, rejected the USDA’s petition to dismiss a complaint from research entomologist Jonathan Lundgren, submitted with allegations that it was ‘speculative and unsupported.’ Instead, a January 6 status conference was scheduled and both parties argued their points, with the judges urging to come to a possible settlement.
Lundgren is one of the few scientists to come forward alleging that his supervisors acted to “deter and impede” his work when he began to conduct research and give interviews about his findings. Lundgren was able to show a connection between pesticide use and the decline of our pollinators.
“Once he started publishing this work, he went from golden boy to pariah, and that’s what this case is about,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER filed the complaint against the USDA on Lundgren’s behalf.
Prior to his controversial research, Lundgren led a pristine 11-year career at the USDA with outstanding annual reviews. He was even named Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist in 2011.
A USDA spokesperson said that the agency can’t discuss individual cases, but 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.”
Lundgren seems to be moving forward despite the legalities of his claim. He has launched a crowd funding campaign to support his Blue Dasher Farm, which he describes in a video and an open letter as an attempt to conduct independent research. He has also aimed some well-needed criticism at the USDA, pointing out the need for “truthful science communicated plainly on topics like pesticide risks.”
MPR News (Featured image used and modified from MPR News)