Report accuses USDA of censoring climate facts

By Cara Hungerford

March 23, 2004: A rec ent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists titled “Scientific Integrity in Policy Making,” alleges the Department of Agriculture (USDA) suppressed a brochure from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) on carbon sequestration after White House objections.

The brochure was passed on to White House Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) because according to the report the Bush administration wants “things regarding climate change be put out by the government in a neutral way.” After the review, subsequent printings of the brochure were cancelled under pressure from the CEQ, despite that “the brochure was widely viewed as one of the agency’s successful efforts in the climate change field.”

“It is not just a case of micromanagement, but really of censorship or government information. In nearly 15 years of government service, I can’t remember ever needing clearance from the White House for such a thing,” the report cites one current government official as saying.

The report further contends that this not a single incident but part of “a larger pattern within the USDA of squelching findings that conflict with the Bush administration’s agenda.”

In February 2002, the reports states the USDA issued a directive to staff scientists that required them to “seek prior approval before publishing any research or speaking publicly on ‘sensitive issues’ including ‘agricultural practices with negative health and environmental consequences, e.g. global climate change; contamination of water by hazardous materials (nutrients, pesticides, and pathogens); animal feeding operations or crop production practices that negatively impact soil, water, or air quality.’”

The UCS is an independent nonprofit alliance of concerned citizens and scientists. The full report investigates numerous allegations in the scientists’ statement involving censorship and political interference with independent scientific inquiry at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Interior and Defense.

The full report can be found at www.ucsusa.org/global_environment/rsi/report.html


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