“The investigative online publication The Intercept has turned its attention to the current and historical role of industry in distorting, undermining, and outright suppressing the protective function of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with regard to pesticide exposures. The subsequent reporting — “The Department of Yes: How Pesticide Companies Corrupted the EPA and Poisoned America” — is a devastating chronicle of the theme and particulars that Beyond Pesticides has covered for years. That is, that EPA has repeatedly disregarded its charge to protect human and environmental health in favor of enabling industry to continue its chemical experimentation on the populace and on the nation’s multiple natural resources. This pattern must change if the agency is to enact its mission and the public is to be protected.
The Intercept interviewed more than 24 people with expertise on the regulation of pesticides, including 14 who have worked in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). The chief takeaway from those interviews, as written by reporter Sharon Lerner, is that EPA “is often unable to stand up to the intense pressures from powerful agrochemical companies, which spend tens of millions of dollars on lobbying each year and employ many former EPA scientists once they leave the agency.
Ms. Lerner also reports on internal agency retaliation against employees who raise concerns about EPA’s ignoring of pesticide risks, waiving testing, etc. This happens in the forms of removal from committees (or not being appointed to them despite the individual’s relevance and expertise); being passed over for promotion; being “written up” for imagined infractions, or being moved (e.g., demoted) to other positions, among others. Executive Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Tim Whitehouse indicates that the organization has recently received multiple inquiries and reports from employees in OPP. He commented, “Current and former employees have been reaching out to us in increasing numbers and expressing concerns about the office culture at OPP and the fact that if scientists speak out about their concerns, they will not last long in that division. Morale has been bad, and it’s getting steadily worse over the years.””