California Role: UC-Davis Tries To Cover Up Its Role In GMO Research In Tandem With Big Agrichem Corps
Funny thing about open records requests: when they pertain to something potentially embarrassing or illegal, they suddenly become much, much harder to comply with.
That is the situation consumer rights activist group U.S. Right to Know has found itself up against in an ongoing fight with the University of California at Davis over records pertaining to the university’s close ties with big agrichem giants like Monsanto and work the university’s employees may or may not have done on genetically modified crop research.
Beginning in 2015, U.S. Right to Know filed 17 public records requests with UC-Davis, legal requests the university is required to comply with under the California Public Records Act. However the university has only provided a total of 751 pages in response to all of these requests. For some perspective on the significance of that, similar requests at other universities have yielded thousands of pages for each request.
The university has yet to provide an estimate for when it will be able to comply with the records request, as required by law, and thus far has completed only one response.
Perhaps tellingly, that one response concerned questions about the soda industry–the 16 remaining requests regarding the genetically modified crop industry remain unanswered.
So the question is, what are they hiding? Perhaps the better question is, by what right does a public university subject to public disclosure laws think itself above sharing with its “owners,” the people of California, work it is doing to aid and abet private industry, in this case, GMO manufacturers, known to be some of the worst polluters in the U.S. and around the world?
U.S. Right to Know filed a lawsuit the other day to compel the university to answer those questions and others.
“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.”
As if it weren’t already apparent enough just how fearful the agrichem industry and the university are about these documents getting out, an agrichem-affiliated law firm has taken the odd step of filing a counter-public records request, seeking all of U.S. Right to Know’s correspondence with UC-Davis. It is of course a naked attempt to intimidate the group and obfuscate the real point of the exercise.
But as Ruskin said, “The public has a right to know what is going on behind the scenes,” between these companies and public universities.
Indeed we do.
Stay tuned. Seems like these documents could be pretty revelatory, especially if they’re fighting so hard to keep them hidden.