Dr. Jonathan Lundgren’s career was thriving! He is an agroecologist, entomologist and was a senior research scientist with the USDA ARS (Agricultural Research Services). He won an award for being the best young scientist out of 1,000, which was the highest honor given to young scientists by the Office of the President and life was good. Then things changed (full interview here).
Through Dr. Lundgren’s research at the USDA, he began seeing problems with an insecticide, particularly neonicotinoids (aka neonics). Neonics are systemic insecticides that are coated onto the seeds of most field crops and many nursery plants. Because this insecticide is not sprayed, it was regarded as being safer. Only 2-20% gets into the plants which begs the question, where does the rest of the 80-98% go? Neonics have been found in our water system, our food and in other plants that have not been treated with neonics. Neonics have been targeted as one of the major causes of our declining pollinator population. Dr. Lundgren’s concerns were that farmers and the taxpayers were not benefiting from the use of these neonics. The ones benefiting from the use of the neonics are those who have large money interests, like the seed dealers and crop consultants. He also had questions as to use the chemical RNAi’s which can turn gene expression on and off.
He starting speaking with the press about some of his findings. Dr. Lundgren was asked to stop talking to the press about his research but he could not! He continued to speak to the press. He was not willing to be silenced. This led to a series of events where his employer, the USDA, would punish him by making sure he couldn’t get grant money, targeting his research team, following him around when he was speaking to try to catch him saying something (always out of context) and generally as Lundgren put it, creating “death by 1,000 cuts.”
Dr. Lundgren stated:
“There are some fights worth having and allowing federal scientists to communicate openly about their research is really important.”
Dr. Lundgren finally got to the point where he and his lawyers made a decision to file a whistleblower retaliation complaint against the USDA, trying to work within the system. He learned very quickly that the USDA had no incentive to punish itself!
He has now left the USDA ARS and has formed a non-profit called ECDYSIS Foundation and Blue Dasher Farm to try to revolutionize food production in the US. It became clear to him that there was a need for scientific support for the farmers and beekeepers who are on the cutting edge of food production with things like regenerative farming, using biodiversity as a tool replacing agrichemicals use.
We applaud Dr. Lundgren for his courage to speak up in the face of adversity and ridicule and for making the choice not to suppress the science that is important for our food future and the future of our planet! We need more scientists who are willing to do the same! Listen to this compelling and important interview on the link below.