The Science of the Lambs
It ain’t easy being a scientist in farm country: Researchers studying the health effects of agricultural pollution say they are being silenced by fearful superiors and harassed by individual farmers, farm groups, and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds and controls much of the research done on farming. One example: JoAnn Burkholder, a well-known aquatic botanist at North Carolina State University, received death threats and demands for her resignation after warning parents not to let their children wade in polluted streams; she called such harassment “rampant.” Another: James Zahn, a former federal swine researcher in Iowa, was told by his bosses that he couldn’t publish his findings on health-threatening emissions from hog farms or speak to citizens groups about his study. Some Midwestern scientists blame the problem on the close relationship between the USDA and industry groups; for their part, the two parties admit to working together, but they deny any effort to muffle or skew scientific findings.
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