Consumer group U.S. Right to Know filed a lawsuit late Wednesday to compel the University of California, Davis to comply with requests for public records related to the university’s work on genetically engineered food, pesticides and its relationship with the agrichemical industry.
Since January 28, 2015, U.S. Right to Know has filed 17 public records requests with UC Davis as allowed under the California Public Records Act, but the university has provided a total of merely 751 pages in response to all of these requests, while similar requests at other universities have yielded thousands of pages each.
UC Davis has provided no estimate of when it will comply with the unfilled requests, as required by law. It originally estimated production of documents in April 2015. It has completed only one response – regarding the soda industry – but none of the 16 requests related to the agrichemical industry.
“We are conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the collaboration between the food and agrichemical industries, their front groups and several U.S. universities,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “So far, documents obtained from other universities have shown secretive funding arrangements and covert efforts to use taxpayer-funded university resources to promote the products of various corporations. The public has a right to know what is going on behind the scenes.”
To underscore the agrichemical industry’s unease about U.S. Right to Know’s public records requests, a law firm that is allied with the agrichemical industry, Markowitz Herbold, has taken the unusual step of filing a public records request for all of U.S. Right to Know’s correspondence with UC Davis, including the responses to all public records requests.
Just over fifty years ago, on July 4, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act into law. “Fifty years later, FOIA is a crucial tool for uncovering corruption, wrongdoing, abuse of power, and to protect consumers and public health,” Ruskin said. The California Public Records Act is the California state version of the federal Freedom of Information Act.
The plaintiff for the lawsuit is Gary Ruskin, in his capacity as co-director of U.S. Right to Know. A copy of the complaint is available here.
U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit organization that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy.