U of M alum blows whistle, says USDA suspended him for work on pesticides

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A University of Minnesota graduate alleges he was suspended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after complaining they were blocking his research into the effects of pesticides on insects, such as bees and butterflies.

The Washington Post reports that entomologist Jonathan Lundgren filed a "whistleblower complaint" Wednesday, claiming his bosses at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service suspended him for 14 days (reduced from an initial 30) in "retaliation".

It comes after he published research and gave interviews about the negative impact "certain, widely-used pesticides" were having on pollinators. After this, he claims his superiors began to "impede or deter" his other research on the subject.

The newspaper notes he has previously complained the USDA has stopped him speaking for "political reasons" and "interfered" with his ability to review research from other scientists.

Lundgren graduated with a B.S. in biology from the University of Minnesota in 1998, following it up with a Masters in entomology in 2000, according to his iGrow profile. He is currently based in Brookings, South Dakota.

KCUR reports Lundgren claims he received "retaliation and harassment" from within the USDA following the publication of his work about the effect of insecticides containing neonicotinoids – which some have linked to the dramatic decline in honey bee populations.

The radio station says his complaint places further scrutiny on the integrity of research from USDA scientists, noting the federal agency has been "dogged" in the last few years by claims scientific findings are suppressed if they conflict with the interests of "powerful corporations" – claims the USDA denies.

MPR News notes he has had a stellar career at the USDA, including being named Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist in 2011, but Jeff Ruch, representing Lundgren in the case, said he went from "golden boy to pariah" once he started publishing his work.

A USDA spokesperson told the news organization it can't discuss individual cases, but says it "fully reviews allegations of wrong-doing," and has "procedures for staff to report any perceived interference with their work."

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