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Science under attack in farm bill, Senators say

13 Senators have written a letter to Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow and Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran, with their concerns regarding the Sound Science Act provision in the House Farm Bill.

The language in the provision, they say, is too vague. References are made in the House version of the farm bill to “well-established scientific processes,” but those processes are undefined. Agencies are instructed to give weight to “experimental,” and “reproducible” data, which the Senators say is ignorant of correlational, theoretical, and descriptive research.

Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey points out that both the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Consortium on Ocean Leadership fear language in the bill could disqualify the use of research on one-time events, like the 2010 explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig and subsequent oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Sound Science Act was introduced in the House version of the farm bill by Tennessee Republican Representative Stephen Fincher.

None of the 13 Senators are conferees in the House-Senate farm bill conferernce committee. They underscore the potential for the provision to block federal scientists from using new techniques and technology, prevent the use of “standard scientific tools” (such as observational models and studies) and open the door for lawsuits from special interest groups.

Senators Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Boxer, Kristen Gillibrand, Martin Heinrich, Mazie Hirono, Jeff Merkley, Bill Nelson, Jay Rockefeller, Brian Schatz, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Ron Wyden added their names to Markey’s on the letter.