USDA disavows gag-order emailed to scientific research unit

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 24, 2017 2:57 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday that an internal email sent to staff at its Agricultural Research Service unit this week calling for a suspension of “public-facing documents,” including news releases and photos, was flawed and that new guidance would be issued to replace it.

The ARS focuses on scientific research into the main issues facing agriculture, including long-term climate change. 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.

"This internal email was released without Departmental direction, and prior to Departmental guidance being issued," USDA said in a statement. "ARS will be providing updated direction to its staff."

It said peer-reviewed scientific papers from the unit should not be blocked. "ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public."

The original email, sent Jan. 23, said: "Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents. This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content." 

(Reporting by PJ Huffstutter; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Leslie Adler)