Another longtime government scientist is leaving after a dispute over the alleged censorship of his work. This time it’s Lewis Ziska, an oft-cited USDA researcher who says his study suggesting rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are resulting in less nutritious rice crops was buried by political appointees looking to downplay the effects of climate change.
In an interview with Politico, Ziska is blistering in his critiques of the agency. “This is not a place for you to be exploring things that don’t agree with someone’s political views” and “if the science agreed with the politics, then the policymakers would consider it to be ‘good science,’ and if it didn’t agree with the politics, then it was something that was flawed,” he charged. To have government officials intentionally ignore and dismiss scientific warnings of the danger, he says, “feels like something out of a bad sci-fi movie.”
The Trump-era USDA is defending itself from Ziska’s charges by suggesting that it was career USDA officials, not political appointees, who canceled planned coverage of Ziska’s study. These alleged concerns, about Ziska’s suggestion that reduced vitamin content of the rice had dietary implications for those who relied on it as staple, happened after the peer review process was completed, a press release was completed, and it was days from publication. The agency’s actions do not quite mesh with this explanation, however: Ziska says department leaders ignored his efforts to rebut them and blocked him from discussing his study.
And, notes Politico, Harvard researchers confirmed his findings last month.
So this is all very dodgy, yet again, and that it comes in an environment in which government scientists are fleeing their departments and their new political minders makes it even more so. Ziska is far from alone in leveling his charges, and Trump’s rotating cast of scandal-plagued environmental arsonists don’t have much remaining credibility in denying them.