Today, I finally heard the word “microbiome” said OUT LOUD during the trial, in a context that so perfectly bridged NHL, immune system dysfunction, and our individual universes of intestinal bacteria. I am in a state of elated disbelief – I’ve waited through THREE trials and had all but given up hope to hear any discussion of the microbiome. As most GG readers know, I’m microbiome/intestinally obsessed. I can imagine people on both sides of the aisle are tired of hearing me bemoan the loss of our collective intestinal wall strength.
Because we did not get to see the entertainingly appalling Donna Farmer deposition this trial (a big oversight on part of Plaintiff, but likely quite a relief for Bayer), I would like to remind you of her reasoning for never testing the formulated Roundup product for carcinogenicity on animals: the formulated product destroyed their “delicate” intestinal membranes and killed them.
With that in mind, I go home at night, sip bone broth, watch The Amazing Race, consume gut restoration supplements, and practice creative visualization of the day that organic food is the norm. Even for dogs.
As a gentle reminder for even you Bayer employees reading my blog, if you are suffering from migraines, arthritis, digestive issues, anxiety, depression or NHL – look to your gut for answers. Most of us have issues with our intestinal permeability, though I more proudly embrace it than others. The subject usually comes up in my cocktail conversations within the first 10 minutes of chatter, mostly because an academic recently pondered whether our microbiomes may have a consciousness of their own. The idea doesn’t seem out of the question given my familial Sci-Fi indoctrination.
By the way, I did a microbiome analysis through UBiome, and was not particularly pleased with the results. I was in the 65th percentile for biodiversity. That’s not even a C- grade, but still better than 65% of you. Let’s not forget that my urine test also showed mega-dumping of glyphosate out of my cranky body that has clearly bio-accumulated it over time (like ALL OF US have).
Enough about my biome and bodily fluids for now! Let’s dig back into the Pilliod case.
I have two visitors join me in the courtroom today – my husband in the morning and my friend in the afternoon. Because Closing Statements will have more attendees than seats, they’ve wisely squeezed their visits in for the last day of testimony. Oncologist Dr. Levine’s testimony doesn’t appear to draw the same crowd as the theatrics of the upcoming culmination of the trial, so several of the gallery’s green, velour covered seats are available.
The first order of business is the EPA’s reaffirmation of glyphosate non-carcinogenicity, which was released last week. Monsanto wants to pull it in to testimony today, but Plaintiff argues that its admission isn’t appropriate. Judge Smith, (who, by the way, remains stellar even when ruling against Plaintiff), ultimately determines that in order to let in the new EPA reaffirmation, she would have to allow Plaintiff to bring a witness back in to dispute the EPA’s claims. She also says of the EPAs reaffirmation: “This isn’t really a decision; this is really a comment on comments.” That is, no new information that would be relevant to the trial.
Plaintiff attorney Mike Miller asks the Judge if his wife, attorney Nancy Miller, could be permitted to join him at the counsel table to hand him documents. Like the rest of the Miller clan, Nancy is a lively, social Southerner, who has toiled away reading and highlighting scientific research in the gallery for weeks. Nancy and Mike usually sit together during other trials, so the situation feels comfortable. Well, not as comfortable for Brent Wisner, who goes searching for a chair to sit on. Big Boss Michael Baum proudly procures him a lone chair from the hallway.
The jury is sent in.
Our jury is looking worn. They had four days off, but several appear to have partied it up over the weekend. It’s not a fantastic sign that they are tired before we’ve even started looking through today’s aggregation of NHL studies. While not quite as tedious as the epidemiology days, the testimonies of oncologists other than Hottie Chadi do not fly by quickly.
DIRECT EXAMINATION OF DR. LEVINE
Tarek Ismail is back to flex his mental muscle in the direct examination of Dr. Alexandra Levine. We were first introduced to Dr. Levine during the Hardeman trial, in which she quite successfully (but not particularly likably) argued that Hep C could have caused Ed Hardeman’s NHL. Of the lineup of Monsanto witnesses, I would rank Dr. Levine as their “star”. Both sides are highly aware of how much hinges on Levine’s testimony. If she can successfully prove that Al Pilliod’s cancer was caused by any of his numerous health conditions, it calls into question if Roundup really did cause his NHL.
Ismail walks through Levine’s impressive CV. Levine’s crowning achievement of her career appears to be her work in understanding and educating people on the link between AIDS and NHL. She really enjoys teaching, which is highly concerning to the likes of me because she is thereby perpetuating the lie that glyphosate doesn’t cause NHL.
In a rather prolonged voir dire, Miller confirms that Levine never investigated the relationship between pesticides and lymphoma. He also clarifies that Levine has respect for Plaintiff witness and co-worker Dr. Weisenburger, even though they have different opinions. Miller pontificates: “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” Dr. Levine responds: “That’s nice. Yes.”
We are off to an amicable start.
The direct examination is a serious snoozefest. I mean, there is just so little animation in either Ismail or Levine’s voice. Levine is clearly coached on her answers, so it feels quite automated. She is also sitting far away from the microphone, so it is a bit of a strain to hear what she is saying. Monsanto attorneys prepared a series of simple slides with bullet points that Ismail and Levine talk to. While it is quite helpful to have the main points highlighted, I think we would all just as well take a hardcopy of the slides and call it a day.
I’m deciding whether or not you all really want the fine details of the Direct. What you may be more interested in is that by the end of the morning session, at least half of the jurors are using every last bit of energy to keep their eyes open. The juror who has the white, laced, expandable hand fan is fanning like crazy to stay stimulated. Even the most alert of jurors are sinking in their chairs.
It’s been a long trial, made longer thanks to Monsanto’s attempt to stall the closings until the EPA published a reaffirmation of their position on glyphosate. And now that isn’t even going to be let in as evidence.
One large, bearded male juror in the front row has spent the majority of the weeks of trial with his eyes closed. Is he asleep? He promised the court that he is listening, not sleeping, but I’m not so sure. His mouth has gaped open from time to time. I’m always worried that I will do that on an airplane. I worry because my extended family has a tradition of taking unflattering, truly hideous photos of one another and turning them into Christmas ornaments. Fortunately, the problem of the gaping mouth while seated can be resolved with the use of this Head Hammock, and our juror could use one as well. No, I get no compensation for the Head Hammock endorsement, it’s just a public service announcement.
OK, here are Dr. Levine’s conclusions:
- Mr. Pilliod has well known risk factors for NHL/DLB/CL
- Mr. Pilliod’s immune system is abnormal
- Abnormal immune system is the most common identifiable risk
- Mr. Pilliod’s abnormal immune system increased his risk for NHL
- Roundup did not cause Mr. Pilliod’s NHL/DLBCL
Levine talks through studies that show a connection between some of Mr. Pilliod’s health conditions and NHL. Mr. Pilliod has certainly experienced more than his share of health conditions, some of which are NHL risk factors. He has had skin cancers, HPV, HSV with recurrent brain infections, Ulcerative Colitis (maybe), sleep apnea, hypertension and stroke. He has a family history of cancer and smoked a pack-a-day for 20 years.
Indeed, it is not a stretch to say that his immune system must not be the strongest. All the more reason why Roundup should be labelled, so that those with health conditions don’t add additional strain to their bodies!
With her most convicted of tones, Levine says: “I am saying he was immunosuppressed. I have not, in 50 years, seen this kind of a history in someone whose immune system is fully normal.” With the absoluteness and extremity of the statement, Mrs. Pilliod laughs quietly and Mr. Pilliod smiles. It was just delivered so harshly.
CROSS EXAMINATION OF DR. LEVINE
Plaintiff attorney Mike Miller stands for the Cross. The jury perks up quite a bit, likely relieved for a change in activity. I am one of the very few people in the courtroom who saw Levine’s cross in Hardeman, in which she became quite hostile and defiant in the tone of her responses. I anticipate more of the same.
Miller stands at the extra large notepad on an easel that is set up in front of the jury. He asks Levine if she knows what caused Al Pilliod’s NHL, to which she answers no. He takes his marker and writes on the notepad: “Dr. Levine does not know what caused Al Pilliod’s NHL.” Hmmm – it is as if he created his own billboard advertisement, at which the jury has no choice but to stare at for the rest of the Cross.
As Miller (and Miller) plug through many research studies that dispute Levine’s conclusions, he forms a solid argument as to why Roundup is the logical cause of Mr. Pilliod’s cancer. Sadly for Dr. Levine, she slips up on a key point:
Miller: Have you ever heard the word “surfactant” before?
Levine: I most certainly have.
Miller: What’s your understanding of a surfactant?
Levine: Surfactant allows a given substance to get into the body more carefully and the skin more carefully and so forth, more completely.
Miller: Substance to get into the body more completely.
Pete Miller, AKA the Mint Sharer, says “Thank you for that” to those of us in the gallery. I look to see the expressions of the Monsanto attorneys, but they are as expressionless and serious as usual. I wonder if they are thinking “crap” or “oh well, what more can we do.” I’m sure that they must know that the surfactant in Roundup most certainly facilitates the absorption of glyphosate into the body. That’s what the surfactant is supposed to do. Admitting so is just not what Levine is supposed to do.
Miller shows Levine and the jury that Al Pilliod’s lab records show no indication of compromised immunity, and in fact show solidly normal T-Cell levels. Levine argues that while T-Cell counts can look normal, it doesn’t mean that those cells are functioning normally.
Miller discusses more studies upon studies. And then more studies. Miller appears to be taking his merry time getting through the Cross, and I realize that it is likely intentional. He is pulling a filibuster to try to give as little time as possible for Ismail’s redirect before the end of the day. Over time, Levine becomes less defensive and is answering many of Miller’s questions with honesty. We are filling time with questions like “What color are Al’s eyes?” among other questions of physical attributes, in a discussion of his propensity to get skin cancer.
Now the heads of the jury are mostly low and those eyelids are struggling to stay open. My eyelids are struggling as well, and the clock seems to move oh so slowly. I feel bad that the day that my friend opted to visit the trial is such a snoozer.
Just when I am about to nod off, Wisner stands and says something to Miller as he walks through the Zhang study. Miller reads: “The strongest factors known to increase non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are congenital and acquired states of immunosuppression. Several studies suggest that glyphosate alters the gut microbiome, cytokine IFN-y and IL-2 production.”
Miller asks Levine to read the next portion: “These changes could impact the immune system, promote chronic inflammation, and contribute to susceptibility of invading pathogens such as H. Pylori.”
And now we all know.
I think that the day was a wash – any arguments made by Ismail or Miller were likely lost in the pure boredom and trial fatigue. Levine will likely continue as an expert witness for Monsanto because, aside from her slip up which Ismail tried to correct in his Re-Direct, she continues to be relatively strong.
On Wednesday we have the long awaited Closing Arguments!! Crossing fingers that I can get a seat and report back!