Agriculture Department lifts USDA gag order after public outcry

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"Any efforts to interfere with scientific agencies' ability to communicate with Congress, federal or state agencies or the public concerns us", Stefano Bertuzzi, chief executive of the American Society for Microbiology, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.

Following a report from BuzzFeed News about a lockdown of USDA scientists within the single department of the federal agency of 90,000, multiple outlets reported that Trump's administration was silencing agencies from speaking to the public.

The US Agricultural Research Service has been stopped from issuing news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds or any social media content, until further notice.

The EPA is under a media blackout and the agency can not post updates on social media, issue press releases or posts blogs communicating their most recent findings. The ARS now has about 750 pending projects dealing with issues like food safety, crop protection, aquaculture and climate change.

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The Trump administration has instituted what it described as a temporary media blackout at the EPA - forbidding staff from awarding any new contracts or grants.

While some say a communications lockdown is standard operating procedure in times of presidential transition - and indeed this happened in a similar fashion when Barack Obama took office in 2009 - others hold the view that the Trump administration as trying to quash scientific research.

Buzzfeed said when asked if the gag notice constituted a halt on the publication of academic articles, scientists were told research papers could be published in academic journals and presented at conferences, but all media interviews must be approved by Washington.

"The new limits on public communications appear to be targeting agencies that are charged with overseeing environmental and scientific policy, prompting criticism from officials within the agencies and from outside groups focused on climate change", the Post reported Tuesday. President Trump's choice for new agriculture secretary, former Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, is also a critic of science-based climate change research. In addition to the EPA and the USDA, a gag order is being placed on "sub-agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services".

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