A bee scientist with USDA continues to wonder if his research on pollinators and neonicotinoids simply proved too controversial for his agency.
In a March 6 story in The Washington Post, Jonathan Lundgren, an entomologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, asserts that something changed once he started raising questions about the safety and effectiveness of neonics.
According to the story:
"As a USDA-ARS employee, Lundgren has run his own lab and staff for 11 years, wrote a well-regarded book on predator insects, published nearly 100 scientific papers and acted as a peer reviewer for dozens of publications. For years, his body of research was either neutral or favorable to farming policy and the chemical industry. But three years ago, he started cautioning against the overuse of pesticides. That shift, he says, triggered his suspensions and the downturn in his professional fate.
He believes the problem began in 2012, when he published findings in the Journal of Pest Science suggesting that a popular class of pesticides called neonicotinoids don’t improve soybean yields. He also served as a peer reviewer for a Center for Food Safety report on the dangers of neonics. The next year, he published a paper suggesting that a new genetic pest treatment, dubbed RNAi pesticides, required a new means of risk assessment."
Lundgren soon found himself under investigation and suspended for inappropriate conduct and incomplete travel paperwork. In October, he filed a whistleblower complaint, saying the agency was trying to muzzle his research.
USDA only provided limited comments in the story, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters.
On Tuesday, USDA’s ARS administrator responded to the story in a letter to the editor, saying:
"The integrity of our scientists and their research is paramount. We have a strong scientific integrity policy to promote a culture of excellence and transparency, including procedures for staff to report any perceived interference with their work, seek resolution and receive protection from recourse for doing so. We do not tolerate activity that puts our science in jeopardy. Likewise, we do not tolerate discrimination or wrongful behavior in our workplace."