U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit that works to advance transparency in the nation’s food system, and its research director, journalist Carey Gillam, sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking records related to the EPA’s assessment of one of the most widely used weed killers in the United States, glyphosate. Glyphosate is a synthetic chemical used in agricultural crop production to kill weeds. It is also a popular herbicide for use on lawns and gardens, business and municipal properties, and golf courses, and is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides. Since 2009, EPA has been evaluating the safety of glyphosate. In 2016, one of the agency committees tasked with evaluating the herbicide’s potential for causing cancer released a report classifying glyphosate as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” This conclusion conflicts with the 2015 report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which found that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Seeking to shed light on EPA’s cancer assessment report, U.S. Right to Know filed a FOIA request for records related to the report and any communications between EPA and Monsanto about glyphosate. Ten months later, when EPA had not responded to the request, U.S. Right to Know sued for release of the records.