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Cannot explicitly insert a NULL value in a non-required picklist field

I am inserting into a SFDC object from SQL. I am inserting NULL for a few of the columns which are picklists in SFDC. When I issue the insert statement, the fields in SFDC are actually being set to the default values of the picklists and not NULL. If I issue an update and set the columns to NULL, their values change.

It appears as though the fields are essentially being ignored upon insert if the values are NULL (not being explicitly set to NULL) and default SFDC functionality takes over. But if I issue an update, the passed NULL value differs from the stored value and the field is updated.

How do I explicitly insert a NULL value into a non-required picklist field in SFDC?
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