Tom Vilsack during the 2008 transition. Photo: Obama Biden Transition Project/CC
On top of concerns about his close industry ties, corporate-friendly policy record, and alarming civil rights history, President Joe Biden’s Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack is also facing scrutiny over what one watchdog organization on Friday characterized as “disturbing” evidence that he improperly meddled in and suppressed scientific research during his previous tenure as head of USDA.
Throughout his nearly eight years as former President Barack Obama’s USDA chief, Vilsack “routinely interfered with scientific work that big agriculture found bothersome,” the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) alleged in a statement Friday, pointing to the direct testimony and survey responses of department scientists. Continue reading →
The Trump adminstration just reversed a ban on using bee-poisoning pesticides in wildlife refuges. (Photo: Amy Whitehead/Flickr/cc)
While regulators in other regions of the world have recently worked to ban bee-poisoning pesticides called neonicotinoids that scientists have long warned could cause an “ecological armageddon,” the Trump administration just reversed an Obama-era policy that had outlawed the use of neonics and genetically modified crops in the nation’s wildlife refuges.
Defenders of Wildlife CEO and president Jamie Rappaport Clark, who served as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) during the Clinton administration, called the move “an insult to our national wildlife refuges and the wildlife that rely on them.” Continue reading →
A USDA researcher says he was censored and punished for reporting on the harmful effects of pesticides like clothianidin. (Photo: jetsandzeppelins/flickr/cc)
A top scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) filed a whistleblower complaint Wednesday that accuses the agency of harassment and retaliation for his work showing harmful effects on monarch butterflies from a class of widely used insecticides know as neonicotinoids, or neonics.
The department reportedly imposed a 14-day suspension (pdf) on Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, a senior research entomologist at the USDA, for publishing an unapproved report manuscript in a science journal on the “non-target effects” of a widely used neonic strain and for travel violations ahead of a presentation on the results to a scientific panel. Continue reading →