- Consumer advocacy group U.S. Right to Know sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to demand documents related to a report that concluded glyphosate, the main chemical in Monsanto's popular weed killer Roundup, is not likely to be carcinogenic.
- U.S. Right to Know first requested the documents under the Freedom of Information Act in May, weeks after the internal report on glyphosate was published on the EPA's website. According to the nonprofit, EPA said it did not mean to post the report and took it down days later.
- The initial FOIA request, which was acknowledged by the EPA the same day, asked for all records starting on Jan. 1, 2015 about the report on glyphosate, as well as any communications between EPA and Monsanto that mention or relate to glyphosate. More than 200 days later, the request has not been fulfilled.
This is the latest move in consumer activists' war against glyphosate, which is used on many crops. Through actions on different stages, some activists are trying to get the common weed killer deemed carcinogenic. Others are filing lawsuits against food companies for using it because some residue gets into food.
This action jabs at the EPA, which has not declared that the pesticide causes cancer. And though it is a FOIA lawsuit that demands the release of public records, the intent is to figure out why federal scientists and regulators came to their conclusion about glyphosate. After all, in 2015 the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer said the weedkiller was probably carcinogenic.
According to the EPA's FOIA website, the agency needs to respond to public records requests within 20 days. However, exceptions can be made for a wide range of reasons. The lawsuit said on May 26 — two weeks after U.S. Right to Know's initial request — that the EPA representatives said they had started a search for records which “could take up to 2-3 weeks to complete.” The nonprofit claimed in the lawsuit the group heard nothing further from EPA.
FOIA lawsuits are a common way to push the federal government into releasing public records. In fiscal year 2016, 10 FOIA lawsuits were filed to get the EPA to release documents. Nineteen FOIA-related lawsuits were closed last year.
Since this lawsuit was filed on Thursday, it's still unknown how the EPA will respond. Regardless of the outcome, glyphosate opponents are likely to use it to their benefit. Without documents released, it's easy to say that the EPA has something to hide. If the documents are released, activists will pore over them, looking for places to delve deeper.