Published: Thu, January 26, 2017
Research | By Elizabeth Houston

USDA disavows gag-order emailed to scientific research unit

USDA disavows gag-order emailed to scientific research unit

After BuzzFeed News wrote a story on Tuesday morning about that internal email, the Agriculture Department received a chorus of criticism from the scientific community for what many in it suggested was the suppression of science and a potential violation of its scientific integrity policy by USDA.

Sharon Drumm, the chief of staff for USDA, stated in an email to Agriculture Research Service, USDA's research department, that starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have rescinded an order that barred its researchers from releasing "public-facing documents", ranging from news releases and photos to social media posts.

Reuters reported that the USDA's acting deputy secretary, Michael Young, sent out a memo that asks its department heads to "review their websites, blog posts and other social media and, consistent with direction you will receive from the Office of Communication, remove references to policy priorities and initiatives of the previous Administration".

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The Associated Press reports that a statement released by ARS spokesman Christopher Bentley said the agency "values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America". The EPA had its grants frozen and is now fighting to keep its pages on climate change live, the National Parks Service (or at least their social media interns) went rogue, and the CDC canceled a major conference on health and climate change.

"The orders are expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide", according to the AP. A similar memo was sent to staff of the Environmental Protection Agency. President Donald Trump has cast doubt on whether man-made climate change is real and has railed against ex-President Barack Obama's efforts to combat it.

Citing sources from the EPA, Kate Sheppard from the Huffington Post reported last night that the agencies' grants were frozen, in addition to a hiring and regulations freeze that was publicly announced, and that staff were instructed not to speak publicly about the order.

In addition to the above-named agencies affected by the media blackout, Buzz Feed News is reporting the National Park Service was told to stop tweeting from official park accounts as well.

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