Earthly Stubborn Perseverance

Monsanto Trial Ritz Benbrook Portier Sawyer Nabhan

For better or worse, I’m married to a Sci-Fi, Star Wars & Marvel Comics fanatic. He bought tickets to see the epic, hot event among my household, Avengers: End Game, on the first day they went on sale. In our family, there is no choice but to attend. Come to think of it, maybe that was the subliminal impetus for the name “Glyphosate Girl,” given how often I hear debates on character arcs while trying to get lunches packed in the morning and kids tucked in at night.

The movie surpassed my mediocre expectations and conveyed several surprisingly pertinent themes. One scene in particular stuck me so strongly that I broke the law of movie viewing and lit up my phone to take some notes. Sorry to the guy shamelessly sporting a tank top two seats over. [SPOILER WARNING:] In reference to destroying the earth and all of its people, the series villain Thanos scoffs: “Stubborn, annoying little planet. I’m going to enjoy it very much.”  

These “ruin the earth for their own good” movies strike even closer to reality than most people realize. Monsanto is indeed our Thanos, destroying the world and justifying it as for our own good. What is so promising, however, is that the human race and the master design of our planet indeed is stubborn. Once people realize what has happened to our health and planet, I *DO* think that unprecedented efforts will be put into restoring what we have lost. Because we are all too stubborn to let ourselves lie down in defeat.

Along those lines, last Friday was such a beautiful day that I cried, for reals, upon hearing that about 55 percent of shareholders voted against absolving CEO Baumann and other managers of responsibility for their actions in the takeover last year. We have jumped another huge hurdle in the fight to liberate the world from Roundup. Enormous congratulations and thank you to the expert witnesses, scientists, attorneys, plaintiffs, activists, well-wishers and wise investors who made this happen.

I will write a more involved report on the shareholders’ meeting, but also want to briefly address a few of your questions. Ultimately, Baumann will likely lose his position as CEO and a new leader will take his place. The new CEO will have no choice but to try to divest of Monsanto, or at the very least wall it off from the core Bayer business as quickly as possible to protect it from bankruptcy. I am certain that investment banks are frantically working to crank out pitch books to win the enormous deal of executing a comprehensive capital restructuring – it will be another big payday for them.

For now, back to the lowdown on last Tuesday’s trial. There was no trial on Weds or Thursday.  

Trial

I enter the courtroom amidst an energetic debate about whether Mrs. Pilliod should be compensated for her life-saving drug cost should the Pilliods win the verdict. Monsanto’s argument is nauseatingly cruel. In the grand scheme of what the enormous award is likely to be, to nitpick on the price of her medicine is petty and cold.  Fortunately, Wisner happens to be an expert on some of the nuances of medical insurance, and puts up excellent argument as to why she should be compensated for future medication expenses.

Dr. Hottie Chadi Nabhan enters the courtroom, and I hear that he tweaked his back overnight and is currently loaded up with Advil. The timing of the painful injury is unfortunate given that Monsanto attorney Tarek Ismail is licking his chops in anticipation of cross-examining Nabhan. Clearly a perfectionist, Nabhan seems otherwise well-primed to duke it out in a meaty glyphosate debate.  

I notice that Nabhan’s tall stature allows him to rest his arms comfortably across the stand, laying his hands along the front edge of the desk. It is an active, engaged body language that makes him project even more confidence than he may actually feel. I wonder if it is intentional, or simply the only position in which his back won’t spasm.

Cross Examination of Dr. Hottie Chadi Nabhan

After some preliminary discussion about how Nabhan became involved in the trial, Ismail leaps right into the EPA OPP reports that Plaintiff attorney Mike Miller highlighted in the Direct. You may recall that Miller did not show the jury the EPA’s overall conclusion that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic, but rather just that the weight of evidence on the epidemiology studies was inconclusive. Ismail shows Nabhan and the jury the full EPA conclusion. Nabhan responds: “My interpretation is not as conclusive as theirs in looking at the data.”

Ismail transitions into the EFSA evaluation of glyphosate, which GG now knows to be a screwed up situation in which EFSA’s evaluation of scientific evidence was just cut and pasted off of Monsanto’s application for registration. While the jury won’t hear that part of the story from Ismail, I am certain that Miller will use it in the cross. Ismail asks if Nabhan is an expert in European regulatory policy. Nabhan answers: “I think neither of us is.” And the battle is on.

Just as things get interesting, there is a note passed from the jury over to the judge, a sidebar, and then a break. The juror apparently just needed to use the restroom. There is a lot of (too much) laughter surrounding the request, that poor juror soul.

When everyone returns, Ismail picks back up with EFSA, proclaiming that there is no evidence of carcinogenicity observed in rats. Nabhan powerfully responds, “I disagree with the opinion. It is my opinion that they are wrong. I don’t need to be an expert to know they are wrong.” My instinct is to kick off a round of applause.

Ismail shifts to discuss the opinions of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Each time I hear about ECHA, I think of the Johnson trial in which an unknown woman in the gallery laughed loudly at the preposterous suggestion that ECHA is worth any airtime at all. Ismail asks Nabhan his thoughts on something called the CLP regulation. Nabhan asks for clarification on what CLP means, and it is clear that Ismail doesn’t know either. In a highly defensive tone, Ismail responds that HE is not the one being examined right now so Nabhan can’t ask questions. Laughter in the gallery, and they move on.

Hottie Chadi continues to hold his own throughout the cross, which is quite the achievement because, as I have said before, Ismail is the sharpest, most well-prepared Monsanto attorney I’ve seen in the last three trials. Presumably, Monsanto decided to have Ismail go up against Nabhan for a reason; they match one another well.

Ismail cruises through more regulatory agencies – Health Canada, New Zealand, Australia. Things then take an odd turn as he ask Nabhan to comment on the opinions of other US organizations – the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and something called The Report on Carcinogens from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Congress. Ismail has prepared a slide adding all of these organizations to a list of those agencies who find glyphosate non-carcinogenic.

An objection is called, and sidebar ensues. I hear Wisner’s penetrating voice over the noise cancellation buzz: “That’s just from some website!” accompanied by some intense gestures. Winning Wisner won the sidebar, and Ismail comes back to the floor and moves on to new topics.

Hours worth of back and forth continues, as they debate everything from Swedish couples (yes, an actual study on epidemiological trends in Swedish couples) to whether squamous cell cancer puts someone at increased risk of NHL. Nabhan is super entertaining to hear debate.  

Some Nabhan quotes that Ismail doesn’t appreciate, but the jury and I do:

“Reasonable people can disagree. We disagree but are reasonable. Eventually all people will agree. Forty years ago in the question of smoking….” Nabhan is cutoff and the statement is struck from the record.

“In this paper, those were the results. There are others that show the opposite.” Nabhan is absolutely ready to rattle off specific papers to support his opinion, but Ismail doesn’t give him the opportunity.

“You didn’t really actually ask the right question.”

“Counsel, I know what I mean to say. So let me tell you what I meant to say.”

“Certain things, I think are important to recognize that we don’t need a study to show that if you jump off a plane, you need a parachute. Common sense.”

Judge Smith asks both Ismail and Nabhan to stop interrupting one another.

Throughout the cross, I am waiting for Ismail to lay into Nabhan with a mountain of studies proving how autoimmunity increases the risk for NHL. Ismail claims that he is not going to go through the studies that show the autoimmunity/NHL connection because he already did so with Dr. Weisenburger, but I’m not so sure. Doubling down on research that suggests that Hashimoto’s or Ulcerative Colitis can increase risk of NHL is something that could be wise to do.

I wait and wait. At the beginning of the day, I presumed that one to two hours would be spent grilling Nabhan on autoimmunity. It never happens. Ismail finishes the cross and hands the witness back to Miller for a re-direct.

WHY would Bayer decide to hold off on that questioning? Perhaps because they suspected Nabhan to be extremely well-prepared to debate autoimmunity, and the mileage they already made off of Dr. Weisenburger’s rather weak testimony on the autoimmunity topic did sufficient damage to the Plaintiff’s otherwise unblemished case. Or maybe they know that their upcoming witness, Dr. Levine, will hit with such force on the topic that there is no point in addressing it now. That is likely a good bet – I am worried about Dr. Levine. Judging from Levine’s testimony in the Hardeman case, the Plaintiff will need an extremely sharp cross-examination to hold their own.

Re-Direct

Mr. Miller says, with a gracious tone: “I thank Counsel for sparing us a lot of studies, and I’ll return the favor.”

Miller clears up a few points, but unfortunately doesn’t dig into the EFSA shenanigans in which the glyphosate regulatory review was provenly based on cutting and pasting from Monsanto’s application for glyphosate approval. I wonder if there is some reason why that isn’t permitted in this trial, because it would be excellent for the jury to understand that the EFSA non-carcinogenic classification is anything but a pure, unbiased analysis of glyphosate toxicity.

This recent report, commissioned by the European Parliament, is a BIG-ASS DEAL: Detailed Expert Report on Plagiarism and Superordinated Copy Paste in the Renewal Assessment Report (RAR) on Glyphosate

And thus we sadly conclude the stellar expert testimony of Hottie Chadi. I think we will see more of him in future trials. The Plaintiff expert witness lineup is the A-Team.

Testimony of Expert Witness Mr. Mills

Mr. Mills, a Forensic Economist who brought his tightly-clutched briefcase with him to the front stand, walks the jury through a Net Present Value calculation for Mrs. Pilliod’s life-saving medication. He calculates it to be $2,957,710.

Stipulations

Wisner reads the following agreed upon stipulations to the jury.

Past Economic Damages:

1: Alva Pilliod’s past medical expenses for care and treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma = $47,296.01.

2: Alberta Pilliod’s past medical expenses for care and treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma = $201,166.76.

3: These expenses were reasonable and necessary for treatment of their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Ability to Pay:

1: In 2018, Monsanto’s net worth was $7.8 billion.

2: In 2017, Monsanto’s net sales of agricultural chemicals totaled $3.7 billion, with a gross profit of $892 million. In 2017, Monsanto spent $1.6 billion on research and development.

Final Notes

With that stipulation, Wisner announces that the Plaintiff rests!!  If only they could rest, but we’ve got another week and a half to go.

There are two video depositions of Monsanto employees, Sam Murphey and James Guard, that also play today. The depositions are so satisfyingly appalling and incriminating that I want to give them their own recap later this week.

The thought of all of these crooks all sitting in a room together takes me back to our villain Thanos and team. May we stubborn earthlings persevere and prevail?

Monsanto experts begin their testimonies on Monday.

© 2019 Kelly Ryerson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

2 Comments

  1. Stubborn annoying little planet. It is a good comment to help you look at ageing, our ability to grow normally, and the importance of a fully fueled Q Cycle. A while back telemeres were all the rage in ageing. It appears that the ‘average’ length of a telemere became shorter over time. Aha, that is why we fail to reproduce cells properly and grow old!. Of course another group fed the rats a good diet and the telemeres ‘average’ grew longer. If we go back up the road we will see that oxidative stress will damage DNA but there is plenty of back-up DNA bits to allow under-performing cells to die off and get out of the way of healthy cells. The logic is that if we were always in a failing state we would all be dead by now. The reverse is true. We follow the healthy DNA to a more robust cell. This leads to the thought that if we were not subject to chemical abuse and we had a full spectrum of nutrients, we might be healthy for a very long time.

  2. Don’t forget to follow the money. The money is in direct sales of various chemicals owned by Monsanto and the patents involved. I suspect that some of the obvious patents will be written off with Monsanto but somewhere out there is a big cache waiting for the flames to die down. Ignore the public angst and ask about other chemicals sold by some of the already divested companies.

GG loves comments!! Let me know your thoughts!