Did 24 Coke-Funded Studies on Childhood Obesity Fail to Disclose Coke’s Influence?

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Monday, December 11, 2017
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

How accurate were conflict of interest disclosures in at least 40 childhood obesity studies funded by The Coca-Cola Company? Not so accurate, according to a paper published in the Journal of Public Health Policy that analyzed studies from the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE), funded with a $6.4 million grant from Coca-Cola.

The ISCOLE study found that physical inactivity is a key predictor for childhood obesity.  Coca-Cola appears to have financed and promoted research tying childhood obesity to causes other than soda consumption.

For 24 of the ISCOLE studies, the COI disclosures report this, or a close variant: “ISCOLE is funded by The Coca-Cola Company. The study sponsor has no role in study design, data collection, analysis, conclusions or publications. The only sponsor requirement was that the study be global in nature.”

However, a Freedom of Information Act request by U.S. Right to Know, a food industry watchdog group, uncovered evidence suggesting that Coca-Cola influenced the studies’ design, raising questions about corporate influence and truthfulness in the Coke-funded papers.

“It appears that many of the ISCOLE scientists did not declare the full extent of Coca-Cola’s involvement in their childhood obesity studies,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know.  “This raises questions not only about these Coke-funded studies, but also more generally about the accuracy of conflict of interest disclosures in other scientific studies funded by corporations.”

“What these emails reveal is how complex conflicts of interest are and how poorly they are currently managed,” said David Stuckler, Professor at the Research Centre Dondena, at Bocconi University. “There is a danger that vested interests such as Coca-Cola pollute the scientific literature with research serving a hidden agenda.”

“In recent years, large corporations have been seeking to minimize concerns about conflicts of interest in the research they fund,” said Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.  A recent example is the Brussels Declaration, which said “commercial conflicts of interests are fairly easy to deal with if they are properly declared”. “As our paper shows, the situation is actually much more complicated and there is a need for considerable caution,” McKee said.

Regarding the ISCOLE emails obtained by FOIA, the Journal of Public Health Policy paper reports:

The emails suggest that the researchers did consult and include Coca-Cola representatives in making strategic decisions about study design. In the early stages of planning the study, for example, the parties debated which and how many countries are to be included. [Coca-Cola Chief Science and Health Officer Rhona] Applebaum emailed [ISCOLE Co-Principal Investigator Peter] Katzmarzyk on 26 March 2012 saying: “Ok—so with Russia and Finland we are at 13? Or no Finland and at 12. Seriously–our CEO hates the #13”…. She continued, “Serious about this 13 business. We have no FL [floor?] 13 at Coke”. Applebaum asked Katzmarzyk: “What other country should we look at?”, to which he responded, “We should talk about Russia as well—do you have contacts there already?”

The Journal of Public Health Policy paper was authored by David Stuckler, Professor at the Research Centre Dondena, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy; Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK; and Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know, in Oakland, California.

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.  For more information, see usrtk.org.

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FDA Declines to Stop Coke, Pepsi from Advertising Artificially Sweetened Soda as “Diet”

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, November 8, 2017
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has denied a petition asking it to stop Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. from using the term “diet” in advertising, branding and labeling of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, because it may be deceptive, false and misleading.  The petition was filed by U.S. Right to Know, a consumer watchdog group, in April 2015.

Numerous scientific studies and literature reviews suggest that artificial sweeteners do not assist in weight loss and may cause weight gain. Federal law prohibits false advertising, branding and labeling of food products, and FDA regulations permit the use of the term “diet” for soft drink brands or labels only when it is not false or misleading.

“The advertising of artificially sweetened soda as ‘diet’ may well be one of the greatest consumer frauds in modern times,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “It is a shame that the FDA is siding with the soda industry against consumers.”

The FDA letter to U.S. Right to Know states that the petition was denied because “Requests for FDA to initiate enforcement action and related regulatory activity are outside the scope of our citizen petition regulations…” But the citizen petition regulations do not explicitly prohibit petitions for enforcement actions not involving a US attorney, such as the FDA warning letters that USRTK requested.

“This is a strained and legally questionable interpretation of their regulation to avoid taking steps to protect public health,” Ruskin said. “In general, the Trump administration has been hostile to consumers and consumer protection,” Ruskin said.

In September 2015, FDA wrote USRTK that it had “not been able to reach a decision” on the USRTK petition “because of other agency priorities and the limited availability of resources.”

The Federal Trade Commission declined to act on a similar petition filed by USRTK, citing competing priorities and resource allocation.

In October, consumers filed six class action lawsuits against Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc., alleging that their marketing of “diet” soda is “false, misleading and unlawful.”

For background on the links between aspartame and weight gain, see the USRTK fact sheet “Aspartame Tied to Weight Gain, Increased Appetite, Obesity.” For background on the health effects of aspartame, see the USRTK fact sheet “Aspartame: Decades of Science Point to Serious Health Risks.”

The USRTK petition to FDA is available at: https://www.usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/FDA-artificial-sweetener-petition.pdf

FDA’s response is available at: https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FDA-denial-of-URTK-diet-petition.pdf

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.  For more information, see usrtk.org.

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Decades of Deceit: Carey Gillam’s presentation to the European Parliament glyphosate hearing

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Carey Gillam is an investigative journalist and award-winning author who spent 17 years on the food and agriculture beat for Reuters. Gillam is now research director of the public interest research group U.S. Right to Know. These remarks were delivered Oct. 11, 2017 before a joint public hearing on “The Monsanto Papers and Glyphosate” before the European Parliament committees on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety; and Agriculture and Rural Development.

Links: slides via SlideShare; Carey’s remarks; video of Carey’s presentation and full hearing

Decades of Deceit: How Corporate Influence Has Manipulated Science and Safety Assessments on Glyphosate 

Revelations from the Monsanto Papers and Other Research

Good morning – I am an investigative journalist, someone who has spent 30 years focusing on facts, pursuing truth. And having spent roughly 20 of those 30 years delving into the dealings of Monsanto I can confidently tell you that the story of the company’s top selling chemical, glyphosate, is not one of truth, but one of deceit – carefully calculated and choreographed deceit. There is overwhelming evidence of attempts to deceive, and to do so in ways that manipulate the press and manipulate policy makers like you.

In my reporting role I – along with colleagues at U.S. Right to Know – have obtained thousands of documents from our US regulators as well as from US scientists who work at public universities, and these documents show clearly the long history of deception when it comes to presentation of glyphosate matters. In addition to those documents, we have now the thousands of pages of internal Monsanto emails, memos and other documents that make it clear beyond any doubt the efforts by this company to manipulate policy makers and members of the public.

You just heard panelists talk about the science. I’m here to share with you what the documents show about deception. We know from the documents that Monsanto has:

  • Ghostwritten research papers that assert glyphosate safety for publication & regulatory review
  • Provided alternative assessments for studies that Indicate harm; convinced regulators to discount evidence of safety problems
  • Developed a network of European & U.S. scientists to push glyphosate safety message to regulators and lawmakers while appearing to be independent of industry
  • Utilized public relations teams to ghostwrite articles and blogs that are posted using names of scientists who appear to be independent
  • Formed front groups that work to discredit journalists and scientists who publicize safety concerns
  • Provided EPA “talking points” to use if questioned by press about IARC classification
  • Successfully pushed EPA to remove top independent epidemiologist from EPA Scientific Advisory Panel
  • Enlisted 3 EPA officials to block a 2015 Glyphosate Review by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that Monsanto said would likely agree with IARC

Full text of remarks posted here (PDF). For many examples of Monsanto’s manipulations revealed in the documents, see Carey’s slides posted below – slides also available via PDF or SlideShare.  



Link to video of Carey Gillam’s presentation and video of full hearing

Carey Gillam is a veteran journalist, researcher, and writer with more than 25 years of experience covering corporate America, and a former senior correspondent for Reuters’ international news service. Her new book “Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science” was just released by Island Press. Carey is also the research director of U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit organization that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy.

Study: How the Food Industry Sees Science, Public Heath & Medical Organizations

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News Release
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin: +1 (415) 944 7350 or Gary Sacks: +61 403 491 205

What do food industry leaders really think about science, public health and medical organizations?

A new study in the journal Critical Public Health, based on a document authored by a senior Coca-Cola and food industry leader, lays out what appears to be the food industry’s roadmap for dealing with global scientific, regulatory and public health and public relations challenges. The document was obtained via state FOIA by U.S. Right to Know, a food industry watchdog group.

The document explains how food industry leaders “have to use external organizations” when dealing with controversies over the health risks of their products.

“The document is striking because it shows how the food industry thinks of medical and public health societies and professionals as pawns,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “It is important for medical and public health professionals to know how the food industry treats them – as instruments to be coolly manipulated — so that they do not fall into industry traps.”

The study states: “This paper provides direct evidence that senior leaders in the food industry advocate for a deliberate and co-ordinated approach to influencing scientific evidence and expert opinion. Importantly, the food industry seeks to do this by co-opting academic contacts, infiltrating major scientific bodies and medical associations, and influencing the generation of scientific evidence.”

The study, titled “How Food Companies Influence Evidence and Opinion – Straight from the Horse’s Mouth,” analyzes an email written by Michael Ernest Knowles, a former vice president of global scientific and regulatory affairs for Coca-Cola, and former president of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a prominent food industry front group.  The email was sent to Alex Malaspina, a former senior vice president of Coca-Cola, and former president and founder of ILSI.

News articles, fact sheets and analysis about ILSI are available at: https://usrtk.org/our-investigations/.

The study was co-authored by Gary Sacks of Deakin University, Boyd Swinburne of the University of Auckland, Adrian Cameron of Deakin University, and Gary Ruskin of U.S. Right to Know.

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.  For more information, see usrtk.org.

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Henry Miller Dropped by Forbes for Monsanto Ghostwriting Scandal

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Update: In August of 2018, Miller left his perch of two decades as a fellow at the Hoover Institution for unknown reasons. He is now a senior fellow with the Pacific Research Institute, a think tank funded by right-wing foundations related to the Koch Brothers that promotes climate science skepticism and seeks to end environmental regulations.

Henry I. Miller, MD, has a long history of arguing for deregulation of hazardous products and taking positions outside the scientific mainstream. He has claimed nicotine “is not particularly bad for you,” argued that low levels of radiation may be beneficial to health, and has repeatedly called for the re-introduction of the insecticide DDT. He is perhaps the most prolific and best-known promoter of genetically engineered foods, writing for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Forbes and other outlets.

In August 2017, Forbes deleted all columns authored or co-authored by Miller in the wake of revelations that Monsanto ghostwrote a column that Miller published under his own name in Forbes.

Monsanto ghostwriting / dropped by Forbes

On August 1, 2017, the New York Times reported:

“Documents show that Henry I. Miller asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes’s website in 2015. Forbes removed the story from its website on Wednesday and said that it ended its relationship with Mr. Miller amid the revelations.”

The emails between Miller and Monsanto’s Eric Sachs show how corporations and writers sometimes work together to promote corporate talking points in ways that are not disclosed to editors or the public.

In the emails, Sachs asked Miller to write about the decision by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to classify glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Miller replied, “I would be if I could start from a high-quality draft.” Sachs provided what he called a “still quite rough” draft, which he described to Miller as “a good start for your magic.” The draft appeared a few days later, largely unchanged, in this Forbes column that appeared under Miller’s name.

Retraction Watch quoted Mia Carbonell, senior VP of global communications at Forbes, on why Forbes has removed Miller’s work from its site:

“All contributors to Forbes.com sign a contract requiring them to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and only publish content that is their own original writing.  When it came to our attention that Mr. Miller violated these terms, we removed all of his posts from Forbes.com and ended our relationship with him.”

Forbes also removed articles co-bylined by Miller and allies including Julie Kelly, Kavin Senapathy and Bruce Chassy – all of whom have claimed independence while writing in defense of pesticides and GMOs.

Project Syndicate added this editor’s note to the top of articles written by Miller (and later deleted the columns entirely):

Legitimate objections have been raised about the independence and integrity of the commentaries that Henry Miller has written for Project Syndicate and other outlets; in particular that Monsanto, rather than Miller, drafted some of them. Readers should be aware of this potential conflict of interest, which, had it been known at the time Miller’s commentaries were accepted, would have constituted grounds for rejecting them.

Named as deliverable in Monsanto PR document

A key document released in 2017 in legal proceedings against Monsanto describes the corporation’s “preparedness and engagement plan” to deal with the IARC cancer panel report classifying glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Page 2 of the Monsanto document identifies the first external deliverable: “Engage Henry Miller” to “inoculate / establish public perspective on IARC and reviews.”

Documents reported by the New York Times, described above, reveal that a Monsanto executive recruited Miller to write about the IARC report and provided him with a draft that he posted largely unchanged under his own name in Forbes. Read more about the Monsanto PR plan to discredit IARC here.

Funding and pitching his PR services

The Hoover Institution, where Miller resides as a fellow, has received funding from corporations and industry groups, including Exxon Mobil and the American Chemistry Council, as well as right-wing foundations — Sarah Scaife Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation, Donors Trust – and other leading funders of climate science denial that also push deregulation across the economy.

Miller pitched his corporate PR services in a 1998 “Work Plan Promoting Sound Science in Health, Environmental and Biotechnology Policy.” The document, posted in the UCSF Tobacco Industry Documents Library, describes Miller’s fees for writing articles, $5,000-$15,000, and proposed an expanded “science and risk communication” program to include arranging speeches, improving web presence and publishing a book. (Source: «Monsanto Papers»: la bataille de l’information, by Stéphane Foucart and Stéphane Horel in Le Monde, June 2, 2017.)

Friend and trustee of corporate front group ACSH

Miller is a “friend and longtime trustee” of the American Council on Science and Health, and he has also been described as a “director” of that group. ACSH is a corporate front group that pitches its services to corporations for product defense, according to a 2012 leaked financial plan.

Defending the tobacco industry

In a 1994 APCO Associates PR strategy memo to help Phillip Morris organize a global campaign to fight tobacco regulations, Henry Miller was referred to as “a key supporter” of these pro-tobacco industry efforts.

In 2012, Miller wrote that “nicotine … is not particularly bad for you in the amounts delivered by cigarettes or smokeless products.”

Denying climate change

Miller is a member of the “scientific advisory board” of the George C. Marshall Institute, which is famous for its oil and gas industry funded denials of climate change.

Claiming nuclear radiation exposure may be “good for you”

In 2011, after the Japanese tsunami and radiation leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power plants, Miller argued in Forbes that “those … who were exposed to low levels of radiation could have actually benefitted from it.” He asked in Project Syndicate, “Can radiation be good for you?

Defending the pesticide industry 

Miller defended the use of widely-criticized neonicotinoid pesticides and claimed in the Wall Street Journal that “the reality is that honeybee populations are not declining.”

Miller has repeatedly argued for the re-introduction of DDT, a toxic pesticide banned in the United States since 1972, which has been linked to pre-term birth and fertility impairment in women.

Attacking the organic industry

Miller’s recent activities include numerous attacks on the organic industry, including “The Colossal Hoax of Organic Agriculture” (Forbes), “Organic Farming is Not Sustainable” (Wall Street Journal) and “The Dirty Truth About Organic Produce” (Newsweek).

In May 2017, Miller claimed, “Organic agriculture is to the environment what cigarette smoking is to human health.”

Defending the plastics industry

Miller defended the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA), which is banned in Europe and Canada for use in baby bottles.

Miller’s prolific pro-industry writings include

Jayson Lusk and Henry I. Miller, “We Need G.M.O. Wheat.” New York Times, February 2, 2014. Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko, “General Mills Has a Soggy Idea for Cheerios.” Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2014. Henry I. Miller, “India’s GM Food Hypocrisy.” Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2012. Henry I. Miller, “Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable.” Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2014. Henry I. Miller, “More Crop for the Drop.” Project Syndicate, August 7, 2014. Henry Miller, “California’s Anti-GMO Hysteria.” National Review, March 31, 2014. Henry I. Miller, “Genetic Engineering and the Fight Against Ebola.” Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2014. Henry I. Miller, “Salmon Label Bill Should Be Thrown Back.” Orange County Register, April 4, 2011. Henry I. Miller, “GE Labels Mean Higher Costs.” San Francisco Chronicle, September 7, 2012. Gregory Conko and Henry Miller, “Labeling Of Genetically Engineered Foods Is a Losing Proposition.” Forbes, September 12, 2012. Gregory Conko and Henry I. Miller, “A Losing Proposition on Food Labeling.” Orange County Register, October 11, 2012. Henry I. Miller and Bruce Chassy, “Scientists Smell A Rat In Fraudulent Genetic Engineering Study.” Forbes, September 25, 2012. Jay Byrne and Henry I. Miller, “The Roots of the Anti-Genetic Engineering Movement? Follow the Money!Forbes, October 22, 2012.

Miller articles removed from Forbes include: Henry I. Miller and Julie Kelly, “How Organic Agriculture Evolved from Marketing Tool to Evil Empire,” Forbes, Dec. 2, 2015; Henry I. Miller and Julie Kelly, “Federal Subsidies to Organic Agriculture Should be Plowed Under,” Forbes, July 12, 2017;  Henry I. Miller and Julie Kelly, “Government Favors and Subsidies to Organic Agriculture: Follow the Money,” Forbes, Sept. 23, 2015.

Articles About Miller 

“Some GMO Cheerleaders Also Deny Climate Change” — Mother Jones

“Pro-Science GMO and Chemical Boosters Funded by Climate Deniers” – The Ecologist

“DDT and Malaria: Setting the Record Straight” – Pesticide Action Network

“TV Ad Against Food Labeling Initiative is Pulled” – Los Angeles Times

“Stanford Ad Demands Anti-Prop 37 Ad Be Changed” – Palo Alto News

Chemical Industry Allies

USRTK has compiled a series of fact sheets about writers and PR groups the agrichemical industry relies on to manufacture doubt about science that raises concern about risky products and argue against environmental health protections.
– Why You Can’t Trust Henry I. Miller
Why Forbes Deleted Some Kavin Senapathy Articles
Julie Kelly Cooks up Propaganda for the Chemical Industry
– The American Council on Science and Health is  Corporate Front Group
– Jon Entine of Genetic Literacy Project: The Chemical Industry’s Master Messenger
– Trevor Butterworth / Sense About Science Spins Science for Industry
Does Science Media Centre Push Corporate Views of Science?

Follow the USRTK investigation of Big Food and its front groups: https://usrtk.org/our-investigations/

University of Florida Sued for Failure to Release Public Records on Agrichemical Industry

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News Release
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 11, 2017
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

Food industry watchdog group U.S. Right to Know filed a lawsuit today to compel the University of Florida to comply with public records requests about the university’s relationship with agrichemical companies that produce genetically engineered seeds and pesticides.

“We are conducting an investigation of the food and agrichemical industries, their front groups and public relations operatives, their ties to universities, and the health risks of their products, said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “The public has a right to know if and when taxpayer-funded universities and academics are collaborating with corporations to promote their products and viewpoints.”

On September 5, 2015, the New York Times published a front-page article, based on USRTK public records requests, about agrichemical industry ties to public university professors, including one from the University of Florida.

On September 3, 2015, USRTK requested emails sent from and received by the University of Florida via the pro-agrichemical industry listserver “AgBioChatter.” On March 7, 2016, the University of Florida provided 24 pages of emails, and on June 17, 2016 provided an additional 57 pages, but denied much of the request.  USRTK updated and renewed the public records request on July 16, 2017.

In addition, on October 27, 2015, USRTK requested emails about the agrichemical industry sent by Jack M. Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida, to employees of the University of Florida Foundation.  On December 15, 2015, the University of Florida provided 42 pages of documents, but denied release of other responsive documents.

“We seek these records to learn more about the University of Florida’s collaboration with the agrichemical industry,” Ruskin said.

Around the time that the New York Times published the University of Florida Foundation’s food and agrichemical industry major donors, the foundation removed these disclosures from its website.

The USRTK investigation of the food and agrichemical industries has been covered in many news outlets, including the New York TimesBoston Globe, BMJ, the GuardianLe MondeSTATCBC and Mother Jones.

USRTK’s complaint for writ of mandamus against the University of Florida Board of Trustees is available at: https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Petition-For-Writ-Of-Mandamus.pdf.  The complaint was filed in the Circuit Court of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Alachua County, Florida.  The case is US Right to Know v. The University of Florida Board of Trustees.

More information about USRTK’s transparency litigation is at: https://usrtk.org/our-litigation/.

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. We promote the free market principle of transparency – in the marketplace and in politics – as crucial to building a better, healthier food system.

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BMJ Reveals Secret Industry Influence on Medical and Science Reporting

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News Release

For Immediate Release: April 5, 2017                                                    
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

The medical journal BMJ published an article today about how Coca-Cola Co. deployed hidden influences to obtain favorable media coverage on issues of soda and obesity.

“Industry money was used to covertly influence journalists with the message that exercise is a bigger problem than sugar consumption in the obesity epidemic, documents obtained under freedom of information laws show. The documents detail how Coca-Cola funded journalism conferences at a US university in an attempt to create favourable press coverage of sugar sweetened drinks,” the article states.

The BMJ article by Paul Thacker, based on documents obtained by consumer group U.S. Right to Know, is available at: http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1638.full

In October, BMJ published another article, also based in part on documents from U.S. Right to Know, regarding ties between Coca-Cola Co. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  That article is available at: http://www.bmj.com/content/355/bmj.i5723.

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. We promote the free market principle of transparency – in the marketplace and in politics – as crucial to building a better, healthier food system.

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U.S. Right to Know Sues EPA for Release of Glyphosate Documents

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Thursday, March 9, 2017
For More Information Contact: Carey Gillam (913) 526-6190

U.S. Right to Know, a consumer advocacy organization, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against the Environmental Protection Agency for violating provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Public Citizen Litigation Group, a public interest law firm in Washington, D.C., is representing U.S. Right to Know in the action.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeks documents related to EPA’s assessment of a controversial chemical called glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world and is the key ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s branded Roundup herbicides as well as other weed-killing products.  Concerns about the chemical have grown since the World Health Organization in 2015 said its cancer experts classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Other scientists have also said research shows safety problems with the chemical and the formulations its used in.

U.S. Right to Know requested the EPA records after the EPA posted an internal memorandum titled “GLYPHOSATE: Report of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee” to the agency’s website on April 29, 2016. The internal EPA report, known as the CARC report, concluded that glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” The EPA then deleted the public posting on May 2, saying that the document was posted inadvertently. But before it was deleted Monsanto officials copied the document, promoted it on the company website and on social media and made reference to it in a court hearing dealing with lawsuits filed by agricultural workers and others who allege Monsanto’s herbicide gave them cancer.

The May 12, 2016 FOIA request asked for certain records relating to the CARC report on glyphosate as well as records of communications between Monsanto and EPA officials that discussed glyphosate issues.  Under FOIA, the EPA had 20 working days to respond to the request, but well over 190 working days have now passed and the EPA has yet to produce any records in response to the request. The EPA has also failed to comply with similar, more recent FOIA requests made by U.S. Right to Know for documentation of EPA dealings with Monsanto regarding glyphosate, though those requests are not part of this lawsuit.

The lawsuit specifically claims that U.S. Right to Know has a statutory right under FOIA to the requested records and that EPA has no legal basis for refusing to produce these records. The complaint asks the court to order EPA to make the requested records promptly available.

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit organization that works to advance transparency and accountability in the nation’s food system. For more information about U.S. Right to Know, please see www.usrtk.org.

Public Citizen Litigation Group litigates cases involving open government, health and safety regulations, consumer rights, access to the courts, and the First Amendment. It is the litigating arm of the national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, Public Citizen. The Litigation Group often represents individuals and organizations seeking access to records under the Freedom of Information Act. More information can be found at www.citizen.org.

U.S. Right to Know Statement on Trump Transition Picks

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News Release

For Immediate Release:  Thursday, November 17, 2016
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

 Statement of Consumer Group U.S. Right to Know on Trump Transition Picks

Statement of Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know, a consumer and public health organization.

So far, the Trump administration looks like a servile minion for the junk food and tobacco industries.  First, they appointed soda lobbyist Mike Torrey and Altria lobbyist Cindy Hayden to the transition team.  Now, the Guardian is reporting that U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, author of the DARK Act to kill GMO labeling, is a possible pick for the Trump cabinet.

These are signs that the Trump administration intends to act with contempt against public health and consumers in our nation.

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How Not to Drain the Swamp

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The guys in the C-suites sure must be laughing today. They pulled a fast one on the American public.

As the seating chart fills out for the incoming Trump administration, it becomes clear that Team Trump seeks to “drain the swamp” in Washington by putting the swamp’s corporate lobbyists in charge.

It’s party time for the corporate elite that really runs our nation.

The signs are legion.

Jeffrey Eisenach, who has worked as a consultant for Verizon and its trade association, is running the FCC transition, and will likely use his post to eviscerate Internet freedoms and bury Net Neutrality.

As our nation’s obesity epidemic continues on, what could be worse than installing a lobbyist for the American Beverage Association, Michael Torrey, to head up Trump’s U.S. Department of Agriculture transition team. Nevermind the 25,000 Americans who die each year due to overconsumption of sugary drinks.

Prominent climate change skeptic Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the corporate front group Competitive Enterprise Institute, is leading Trump’s EPA transition team, a slap in the face to all Americans who recoil at climate change, dirty air and poisoned water.

Two of the biggest winners will be billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, and their firm Koch Industries. At least two of their lobbyists have prominent places in the Trump transition.

Mike Catanzaro, who lobbies for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Chemistry Council and Koch Industries, is the honcho for Trump’s “energy independence” agenda.

Mike McKenna, who is in charge of the transition at the Department of Energy, lobbies for Dow Chemical and Koch Industries.

Doubtless Team Trump’s lobbyists are working on how to gut the key regulators, for example, carrying out Trump’s promise to undermine the “FDA Food Police,” which is supposed to keep our nation’s food system safe for all Americans. Try telling that to the one in six Americans who contract food poisoning each year.

According to some news outlets, venture capitalist Peter Thiel, is joining Trump’s transition team. Thiel is co-founder of Palantir Technologies, which played a key role in a corporate espionage scandal involving U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans to spy on unions and citizen groups.

Trump’s promise to “end our government corruption” by putting corporate lobbyists in charge is laughable. As is the idea of empowering Newt Gingrich, who left Congress with a record of contempt for law and House Rules on ethics and corruption, after being forced to pay a $300,000 fine for his congressional wrongdoing.

To be sure, Hillary Clinton has been no great friend of the consumers, public health or government watchdogs. Clinton has a well-honed reticence to taking on the corporations and trade associations who paid her mammoth speaking fee and filled her foundation coffers. Her victory would not have brought citizen movements to power, just as her husband’s did not.
One open question: How will Trump voters respond to — instead of draining the swamp — putting the swamp in charge of the swamp?

Trump voters ought to be mad — they just got sold out.

Gary Ruskin is co-director of U.S. Right to Know, a food industry watchdog group.  For 14 years, he directed the Congressional Accountability Project, which opposed corruption in Congress. You can follow him on Twitter at @garyruskin.

This article was first published in The Hill.