I attended college in the late 1990s, a period of dramatic cultural transition from grunge to Britney Spears. Whether wearing huge flannel shirts or belly-baring crop tops, most of the girls in my sorority worked out and constantly dieted to achieve that super lean 90s body type. Around this time, my older sister – who was working in fashion merchandising and always knew the latest and greatest – told me that she read in Glamour that Cindy Crawford never lets a piece of bread cross her lips.
My stomach had been beset with pain since high school and I took medications to treat it. A nutritionist also helped me, but the nutritional science wasn’t well developed at the time, so I was advised to take glutenous fiber bulking agents to keep my intestines from enduring painful spasms. I never considered that my intestinal mucosa might be reacting to gluten because the understanding of the links between diet and chronic disease were relatively nascent. World Wide Web searches on health were not yet user friendly! Doctors found it a mystery that someone so young could have idiopathic cramping, and labelled my condition as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Anyway, for purely aesthetic reasons, I decided to take Cindy Crawford’s advice, and stopped eating all bread. I halted my morning runs to mid-New Hampshire’s most beloved bagel shop, Bagel Basement. Actually, I still went and bought a Diet Coke if I wanted to check out the Saturday morning hangover scene.
Well, thanks to Cindy Crawford, my Irritable Bowel Syndrome disappeared. There were likely several contributors to the remission, but now that I reflect, I am certain that the reduction in gluten and associated toxins helped to heal my intestinal membranes and significantly contributed to the restoration of my health.
Never a dull moment in GG’s health history! I feel like the ultimate human health guinea pig of the grand Monsanto food experiment. Which is why I have complete elation watching the ridiculous scene that took place in the courtroom today.
Today, we will hear the expert witness testimony of Agricultural Economist Dr. Charles “Call me Chuck” Benbrook. You may remember him from the Johnson trial, but not the Hardeman trial, in which he did not testify. Dr. Benbrook is a hotshot analytical mind in the food, farming and pesticide arena. He not only spent a great deal of time working on government agriculture and pesticide policy, but also continues to publish critically insightful and influential research of modern agriculture’s indiscriminate application of environmental toxins.
Wow – his website is really comprehensive and perfect for the pesticide/herbicide obsessed likes of me. If you just can’t get enough of this stuff, check it out. You can input specific crops, specific states, and see how much of a specific herbicide, pesticide or fungicide can be found on that crop in a specific year. Seriously remarkable! The PUDS system. (Input PUDS on this Search Page)
I see the Plaintiff attorneys gather with red sweater-vested Dr. Benbrook in the hallway, and take a seat in the courtroom. Judge Smith enters the courtroom, ready to get the day rolling. In a super bizarre twist, Monsanto attorney Mr. Brown stands and makes an extremely tardy objection to Benbrook’s imminent testimony. The expert witnesses had been approved and decided upon well before the trial, so the blanket objection on the morning of Benbrook’s testimony just makes no sense.
Brown objects to a long list of Benbrookisms, like simply the fact that he is an economist. Wisner can get some pretty intense eyes when he sees outrageous antics from the Defense, and his intensity is at an 11/10. Brown argues that because Benbrook is an economist, he can’t testify to the science, so any commentary he adds will be cumulative. He says: “Why in the world” would an economist go through the scientific studies.
GG Sidebar: I’m actually personally offended by this argument about economists – I killed myself with rigorous quantitative analyses when I was an economics major and find this rude.
Wisner powerfully says: “JUST an economist?” He has a PhD in Agricultural Economics and worked and published specifically on pesticides.
Monsanto then expresses concern that Benbrook will speak about issues that were not approved by Judge Smith. Apparently, in Benbrook’s 300 page report, Monsanto previously objected to several parts that Judge Smith then excluded from testimony. However, suddenly Monsanto claims that many more items should be excluded as well.
Wisner’s eyes get even more fiery. He says that Benbrook planned to testify on the Magic Tumor episode, the fraudulent study results on glyphosate from IBT Labs, and other aspects of the EPA approval process of glyphosate.
Brown re-emphasizes that Benbrook just reads things and reports on them, and that an Agricultural Economist is not a scientist.
Wisner puts his arms up and says that Brown’s arguments are completely factually inaccurate. Judge Smith asks: “Didn’t he [Benbrook] testify this in the Johnson trial?” Wisner and several others shout “YES”!!!
Before a brief recess, Wisner hilariously says: “I’m sorry he isn’t familiar with this litigation. I’ve been doing this for the LAST THREE YEARS.”
After the break, and more argument, Judge Smith reasonably concludes that Benbrook’s testimony may very well be relevant to the case, and she will work through objections real-time, as they arise during the testimony.
The jury finally enters, 45 minutes after the scheduled start time. Monsanto’s objections were a ridiculous waste of everyone’s time.
DIRECT TESTIMONY OF DR. CHARLES BENBROOK
Dr. Benbrook enters and takes the stand. He looks comfortable as Wisner walks through his lengthy CV. His story hasn’t really changed since Johnson, though I didn’t previously know that he breeds beautiful rabbits with silky coats as a hobby.
Let me summarize the gist of what transpires for the next many hours. Monsanto attorney Brown decides to insanely object to questions and answers from Wisner and Benbrook over and over again, on any petty detail. It is totally weird – what on EARTH could Monsanto be thinking on executing this childish strategy that just makes them look like they have more to hide than they actually do???
After many rounds of objections, the jury starts laughing out loud at the ridiculousness. There are so many sidebars. The jury’s eyes roll and they exchange glances of amusement. It frankly seems like the jury is being Punk’d by Monsanto. With each objection, I’m mentally adding another million dollars to the damages they will ultimately be awarding the Pilliods.
I could speculate on a number of reasons why Brown has opted to behave in this way – to get in Wisner’s head, distract the jury from Benbrook’s testimony, or maybe to try to take control back after yesterday’s horrific video depositions of extremely guilty-looking Monsanto employees. Brown clearly hasn’t gone up against Wisner before – if anything, Brown’s pestering is just increasing Wisner’s cortisol, which ultimately serves to sharpen his arguments to the pointiest of verbal swords.
Despite the fact that Benbrook is merely an esteemed economist, his testimony provides fascinating details that fill in more of the entire Roundup story. I am staring at my notebook, and have over 15 pages of handwritten notes in tiny print. Much of the testimony is similar to that in Johnson, but I will provide an overview of highlights. Remember that these arguments were interrupted persistently with senseless objections.
The Scandalous Details of Laboratory Fraud – Littered with Odd Objections
- Benbrook tells an engaging story of what went down in the 1970s IBT laboratory scandal in which the lab produced fraudulent reports with faulty conclusion in pesticide tests – the same fraudulent data upon which Roundup was ultimately approved. Here is excellent coverage of the IBT scandal from the Johnson trial.
- IBT was busted in 1976. The EPA eventually checked IBT’s raw data to review glyphosate safety because that data served as the basis upon which glyphosate got EPA approval in 1974. Upon review, the EPA found that the data did not support the conclusion that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic, and the study was declared invalid.
- From 1976-1983, Roundup was still on the market, even though there was no valid carcinogenicity study to support its approval.
- In 1983, a follow-up glyphosate carcinogenicity study showed cancer in the male mice (the “Magic Tumor” study), and the EPA labeled glyphosate as Class C – Possibly carcinogenic to humans. We know what happened next – Monsanto hired a scientist to “magically” find a tumor in the control group of mice to negate the study. As we know by now, Monsanto never repeated a mouse study ever again, and totally gets away with it.
- Most disturbingly, in the EPA’s 2017 Glyphosate Issue Paper: Evaluation of Carcinogenic Potential (Page 85), they STILL CITE THE FRAUDULENT, INVALID 1973 IBT STUDY AS RESEARCH SUPPORT OF NON-CARCINOGENICITY OF GLYPHOSATE!!! Wisner only recently discovered this outrageous fact.
Benbrook Study Comparing IARC and EPA Glyphosate Evaluations
Benbrook’s recently published paper provides a slam-dunk, can’t-be-debated argument as to why IARC is far more trustworthy in its evaluation of glyphosate than the EPA. How did the US EPA and IARC reach diametrically opposed conclusions on the genotoxicity of glyphosate-based herbicides?
I have read it several times with glee. Today, however, the jury will not be walked through the paper with detail due to showers of objections that leave the jury smiling at Monsanto’s ridiculousness.
Trends in Glyphosate Use Over Time
Presumably, Benbrook will be allowed to talk numbers as to how much Roundup has been sprayed over the years. That is a very economist-like thing to present. Benbrook walks to the screen, exhibiting a chart of glyphosate use, and Wisner starts questioning. As readers know, glyphosate use exploded over the last two decades, and eventually rose to its #1 spot of herbicides used in the US. Wisner asks if the dramatic increase in glyphosate use happened at the same time as the AHS was collecting data. Benbrook responds that indeed it was.
Brown loudly objects: “‘SCUSE, ‘SCUSE, ‘SCUSE, ‘SCUME ME – this is all argumentative.”
Wisner asks for a sidebar because he doesn’t understand the objection.
After more objections, an exasperated Wisner says that he is a “fish out of water here.”
Wisner asks Benbrook to discuss POEA, the toxic surfactant in the US Roundup formulated product that helps to punch holes in my intestine. The same surfactant that prevents Donna Farmer from testing rodents with the formulation because they die via intestinal damage before they can see evidence of carcinogenicity. Yes, that POEA.
Wisner: How do we know they are safe?
Benbrook discusses that in Europe, POEA is not allowed, so the European Roundup formulation is different. Wisner asks if there is anything stopping Monsanto from making the US version of Roundup a less toxic formulation. Benbrook answers no.
And we move to the cross.
CROSS OF DR. BENBROOK
Mr. Brown is up, and we have already heard enough from him all morning and into the afternoon. He goes to his podium with an enormous binder of papers. I kid you not, this is the gist of the cross:
- Benbrook left the National Academy of Sciences over a difference in opinion as to the direction of the organization.
- He has worked in organic advocacy
- He has testified as an expert in other trials
- Companies other than Monsanto also used IBT Laboratories
Brown asks Benbrook about some mouse study involving five pathologists. Benbrook replies “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
As we are leaving on break, a viewer whispers to me this T.S. Eliot quote:
That’s the way their cross ends.
Not with a bang,
But a whimper.
There was also a video testimony of the Pilliod’s treating physician which I unfortunately couldn’t stay to watch.
I really don’t have any clue what drove Bayer’s strategy in court today. It was unlike anything I’ve seen in any of the three trials. I note that Bayer super star attorney Tarek Ismail is just looking at the ground. He’s definitely been dealt a losing hand of evidence – as have all of the previous teams of Bayer attorneys. I wonder if he will ever meet up and trade stories with Lombardi and Stekloff.
The charts in the image are from Benbrook’s study on the IARC v EPA glyphosate reviews.
AOJ on next, covering the testimony of the Pilliods.
I feel like I might have some typos in this article. Will give it a read again tomorrow with fresh eyes!
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