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E-M:/ Ag Scientists Feel the Heat

Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>

This should be of general interest.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 30 Dec 2002 14:57:45 -0600
From: Jim McNelly <jim@composter.com>
Reply-To: compost@compostingcouncil.org
To: compost@compostingcouncil.org
Subject: [USCC] FWD: Report on pressure on scientists to not study or report on
    harmful impacts of large farming operations

Source, "Ag Scientists Feel the Heat,"
by Perry Beeman
The Register, Ames, Iowa
December 1, 2002.


University and government scientists studying health threats associated 
with agricultural pollution say they are harassed by farmers and trade 
groups and silenced by government and university superiors afraid to offend 
the powerful farm industry. The heat comes from individual farmers, 
commodity groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which finances and 
controls much of the research. And the pressure is growing, some scientists 
say. "It's rampant," said JoAnn Burkholder, an acclaimed aquatic botanist 
trained at Iowa State University who received death threats after warning 
North Carolina parents not to let their children wade in a manure- polluted 

Scientists in Iowa and other states say that the US Department of 
Agriculture (USDA) kills controversial research by forcing it through an 
extended approval process. The agency also keeps researchers from 
publicizing sensitive findings in scientific journals and at public 
meetings and cooperates with industry groups to suppress research results 
that don't meet the groups' satisfaction, they charge. Burkholder, said, "I 
have seen some very sad practices in this country. Industry has a 
stranglehold on environmental issues to the point that this muzzling goes 
on all the time." Those brave enough to speak out usually have secure jobs 
at universities or, like Zahn, leave the public arena.

James Zahn (a former federal swine researcher in Ames, Iowa) said his 
superiors wouldn't let him submit for publication perhaps one of his most 
important findings - that the air emitted by hog confinements contained 
potentially health-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria- and several 
times refused invitations for him to speak about his findings. Zahn also 
was uncomfortable that an "advisory panel" of hog farmers, assembled by the 
USDA, watched over the lab's work. In fact, national pork groups have at 
times had offices in the same government buildings as the USDA labs. "No 
other government agency ever had this hand-holding relationship with a 
livestock group," Zahn said after he quit the USDA job. "Your career could 
be over," he said.

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