USDA Buries Studies that Show Damages from Climate Change

Silencing Science Tracker

USDA Buries Studies that Show Damages from Climate Change

On June 24, 2019, Politico published a story highlighting how the Trump Administration has refused to publicize United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientific studies that focus on the impacts of climate change. The studies in question were all peer-reviewed by scientists and cleared through the non-partisan Agricultural Research Service, one of the world’s leading sources of scientific information for farmers and consumers. None were focused on the causes of climate change (typically considered the more politically charged issue), rather they addressed the impact of such changes and a covered a wide range of topics from how rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment to how climate change causes an increase in allergies.

The USDA claims there have been no directives to suppress publicity for climate-related studies and stated that there are thousands of scientists working for the USDA and publishing research and that it simply isn’t possible to publicize every single study. However, Politico found that the USDA has only publicized two studies on climate related issues since the Trump Administration began in 2017 and both of those were favorable to the politically powerful meat industry. Politico also found that in some cases, such as the study on rice and vitamins, the USDA sought to actively prevent dissemination of the study by its research partners. While the USDA has strict guidelines to prevent political influence over research projects themselves, researchers in the field claim that USDA officials are choosing to ignore or downplay research findings that are inconsistent with the administration’s agenda.

Update: On August 5, 2019 Politico published a follow-up to the June 24 article in which it revealed that the scientist whose study on how rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment was suppressed has decided to resign from the USDA. The scientist, Lewis Ziska, has worked at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for more than two decades and became alarmed when department officials not only questioned his findings but also tried to minimize coverage of his paper, which was published in the journal Science Advances last year. This fact, coupled with what he described as a “department in constant fear of the president and Secretary Sonny Perdue’s open skepticism about broadly accepted climate science” led him to look for a new position and his last day at the USDA was August 2, 2019.
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