It’s not an appetizing idea—the fact that the food we eat and feed our children could be regularly laced with an array of insecticides, herbicides and other pesticides. But the sad and sometimes scary truth is that conventional agricultural practices leave traces of pesticides in many popular foods. Making matters more worrisome is the growing body of scientific research linking pesticide residues in food and water to human health problems. For decades, regulators have asserted that pesticides in food are safe. But the new wave of scientific scrutiny has upended those assurances.
Finding and sharing the data and the regulatory documents that shine a light on these types of truths—the story behind the spin—is what we do here at U.S. Right to Know (USRTK). Much of our work involves the filing of federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state open records requests to obtain data and documents regulatory agencies and institutions do not share openly with the public. Too often we are forced to litigate to obtain the records we legally are entitled to. We’ve filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the University of Florida, among others, over record requests. We also regularly scour courthouse dockets for documents that we share with the public.
Corporate deceit, regulatory failures and manipulation of scientific literature are among the many revelations we have uncovered as we research food policy and food production practices and associated impacts on our health and our environment. Our work has also laid bare a sweeping network of organizations that promote corporate industry agendas while hiding their financial and other ties to those same corporate interests.
It may not sound like exciting work—fighting for and poring through thousands of pages of memos, emails, scientific papers and other documents. Often, we find regulators doing their jobs to protect the public. But we also often find that is not the case; with far too many corners cut and corporate wishes prioritized over consumer protection.
Some highlights from our work in 2018:
We provided free access to the “Monsanto Papers”, the trove of internal Monsanto emails and other records unearthed through litigation. We provided original reporting (and helped journalists around the world in their own reporting) about the significance of the mass tort litigation brought by thousands of people suing Monsanto and alleging that the company’s Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides cause cancer. We’re helping journalists, scientists, lawyers and consumers keep track of trial updates at our new Monsanto Trial Tracker page.
We broke important news about the health risks of pesticides, and other chemicals in our food and how many corporate actors are trying to hide the risks of their products from the public. And we helped explain the implications of a new wave of genetic engineering.
We worked with academics around the world to report about corporate wrongdoing, including Monsanto’s history of ghostwriting studies, and Coca-Cola’s “war” on the public health community.
And we shared thousands of pages of documents obtained in our U.S. Right to Know investigations with the University of California San Francisco for placement in the university’s free, easily searchable Chemical Industry Documents Archive.
Our work has drawn the ire of the agrochemical industry and made us the target of what seems like never-ending harassment from industry defenders. But with the generous support of Dr. Bronner’s Family Foundation and other charitable giving groups, we continue to grow and expand our work. We believe all citizens have the right to truthful and transparent information about our food system, and we’re dedicated to keep asking hard questions and pushing for the answers.
We all eat. And we all should stand for our right to know.