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Top Scientist Says He Quit USDA Because Trump Admin Tried to Bury His Study on Climate and Nutrition

Top Scientist Says He Quit USDA Because Trump Admin Tried to Bury His Study on Climate and Nutrition

Rep. Chellie Pingree tweeted, “Once again, the Trump admin is silencing our scientists.”

Lewis Ziska

Plant physiologist Lewis Ziska quit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Friday. (Photo: Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service via sciencenewsforstudents.org)

The exodus of federal scientists in the era of President Donald Trump continued Friday as 62-year-old plant physiologist Lewis Ziska left the U.S. Department of Agriculture “over the Trump administration’s efforts to bury his groundbreaking study about how rice loses nutrients due to rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” Politico reportedMonday.

“There was a sense that 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 and needed to be done again.”
—Lewis Ziska, ex-USDA scientist

Ziska—who worked at USDA under five presidents, both Republicans and Democrats—charged in an interview with Politico that he left the department’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) because the USDA tried to block the public dissemination of his research on how the human-caused climate crisis’s impact on rice could threaten the nutrition of 600 million people. The studyPolitico reported, was internally cleared at the department and peer reviewed prior to its publication in the journal Science Advances last year.

USDA, in a statement to the outlet, said that “this was a joint decision by ARS national program leaders—all career scientists—not to send out a press release on this paper” based on scientific disagreement, and the decisions involving the study weren’t politically motivated.

Ziska, however, said that “this isn’t about the science. It’s about something else, but it’s not about the science.”

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