There is a lovely small town in rural North Carolina in which everyone is welcoming and family is of utmost importance. The town’s history is rich in farming and it is not uncommon for homes to have large open land surrounding them. Pesticides are widely used, so trust in the manufacturers and EPA is high. RoundUp is commonly applied in landscaping to tame the notorious weeds of the deep South.
In this small town, I lost both my mother-in-law and father-in-law two years ago, at far too young of an age. My nonsmoking mother-in-law died from lung cancer. My father-in-law suffered a horrific, slow neurological death that Duke Hospital neurologists attributed to pesticide exposure. There are many stories of cancer in this town. Rampant cancer that people attribute to “bad luck” or “bad genes.” This same story is retold in not just this town, but in many towns that believe that RoundUp is safe enough to drink.
Because, hey, Monsanto wouldn’t hurt us, right? The EPA looks out for us, yes?
Let’s continue with today’s testimonies.
If you are skimming this article, be sure to read the bottom – some sh!t went down after the jury was sent home for the day.
Mr. Wisner announces that the Plaintiff and Defendant counsels agreed upon the following economic damages and writes them on a huge pad of paper for the jury to view:
Future Loss of Earnings – $1,433,327
Lost Household Services – $286,038
Past Medical Expenses – $533,844.32
The total in suggested economic damages is approximately $2.25 million.
TESTIMONY OF DR. DANIEL GOLDSTEIN (continued)
We pick up where we left off yesterday in the video testimony of shifty Dr. Daniel Goldstein, Monsanto’s Medical Sciences and Outreach Lead AND Distinguished Science Fellow. The “Distinguished Fellow” is new information today. His body language continues to epitomize a text book in how to spot dishonesty, until his own lawyer does the questioning. I wish that this had been live testimony because the video testimonies feel sleepy. The information is highly provocative, but also reminiscient of childhood when teachers would roll in the television to watch movies about books that we had just read in English. Interesting, yes, but also less engaging. The eyes of the jury look tired.
- A United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation requires that IARC carcinogenicity be listed on product data sheets. The Monsanto team decided to “hold firm” on its position of non-carcinogenicity and listed the IARC ruling with a disclaimer that they disagree with it. Check it out on page 6 of the enthralling Ranger Pro Safety Data Sheet. (1)
- During the direct by Monsanto attorney Michael Calhoun, we learn that Goldstein went to medical school at Johns Hopkins (1981), completed a residency in pediatrics, and then pursued a fellowship in pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Toronto. We can conclude that Goldstein is highly educated. He also states that: “My personal focus is human safety.” (!!!!!)
- Plaintiff’s attorney asks Goldstein why he has made decisions to hide negative studies about glyphosate to the EPA, such as a 2002 study on the significant dermal absorption of RoundUp. (2) Goldstein responds that he had no involvement with deciding to hide that study from the EPA and that they only give the EPA studies that they specifically requested.
- A Monsanto employee reported that he had developed Hairy Cell Leukemia, and wondered if it was related to the “exposure to all of the various chemicals” in his job. Goldstein stresses that regardless of cause, nothing would change the treatment. He also says that this Adverse Report was not legally necessary to share with regulators because the employee mentioned “various chemicals,” not a product specifically.
Goldstein concludes that Monsanto and the global regulatory agencies agree that there is no carcinogenic risk from glyphosate or RoundUp.
TESTIMONY OF DR. DONNA FARMER
Donna Farmer of “We can’t say that RoundUp is not carcinogenic” email fame is up for video testimony. I am disappointed because in pre-trial, a Missouri judge had subpoenaed Farmer for a LIVE video testimony. Apparently, Judge Bolanos found that testimony impermissible and we are stuck with more pre-recorded deposition.
Dr. Farmer is sharp, professional and articulate. Throughout the testimony, she is unwavering and scary-calm. I understand why Farmer has been promoted through the organization to her current senior role. She has a BA from University of Colorado Boulder and a PhD in Toxicology. Farmer has worked at Monsanto since September of 1991 as a toxicologist in the Product Safety Center.
Dr. Farmer is the Product Protection and Nutrition Lead for Monsanto. Plaintiff attorney Michael Miller asserts that her job is to “defend” glyphosate. She indeed is the lead spokesperson for the safety of RoundUp. In her job, Farmer makes sure that Monsanto meets the requirements of the regulatory agencies. She clarifies to Miller that her role is not just “defending the molecule.”
Miller next shows Farmer a Monsanto document from 2004 which states that the number one goal for Farmer is to “defend and maintain the global glyphosate business.” Farmer is clearly super annoyed by this revelation because I do imagine that her job is highly technical and this makes light of all of her responsibilities. Nevertheless, the responsibilities do all seem to fall under Defender of Glyphosate.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM A VERY COMPLEX DEPOSITION:
- Farmer may truly believe that glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer, because she is just that believable in the testimony.
- Monsanto has done studies on glyphosate and the surfactants separately, and finds them non-carcinogenic. They do not see a need to study the formulated product and are not required to do so by regulatory agencies. This claim is very suspicious – it seems that they may know that their formulated product can cause cancer, but because the EPA doesn’t require testing it, they remain in the clear.
- In 1999, the Italian government was concerned about the genotoxic potential of RoundUp. Monsanto hired genotox expert Dr. James Parry to conduct and internal safety review of glyphosate and the formulated product. Dr. Parry’s conclusion was that there is in vitro evidence of genotoxic effects for the RoundUp mixture. Farmer claims that the gentotoxic effects were related to cytotoxicity elicited by enormous exposures by injection into the mouse abdomen, which is not representative of actual human exposure.
- Parry suggested follow-up studies on the genotoxicity of the individual components of RoundUp. Internal emails show that Monsanto had no intention of providing Parry with samples to do further testing, though Farmer said she, “doesn’t remember” if they sent samples or not.
- In 1999, Farmer’s boss Bill Heydens, wrote in an email that:
We want to find/develop someone who is comfortable with the genetox profile of glyphosate/Roundup and who can be influential with regulators and Scientific Outreach operations when genetox issues arise. My read is that Parry is not currently such a person, and it would take quite some time and $$$/studies to get him there. We simply aren’t going to do the studies Parry suggests.”
- In 2008, because of public chatter about RoundUp carcinogenicity, Heydens, Farmer and other Monsanto employees co-authored a published study that showed that glyphosate and GBHs are not genotoxic under human and animal conditions, and that abdominal injections cause cytotoxicity, not genotoxicity. I doubt the reliability of this paper. (3)
Upon completing the three or so hours of testimony, my impression is that shady shenanigans went down at Monsanto surrounding the genotoxic conclusion of the Parry study. Equally revealing is the aggressive, combative nature in which Farmer and her Monsanto team defend the safety profile of RoundUp. Monsanto glaringly lacks transparency about their studies and data, which leads me to think that they are hiding some damaging evidence of carcinogenicity deep within the dark labs in St. Louis.
Dr. Donna Farmer gave convincing, convicted arguments that sounded legit. She anticipated the emails that she was shown by Miller and appeared convincingly vague, dismissing the attribution of any significant meaning to them.
I hope that the jury can see truth, but I’m not sure that they were given the evidence to do so. So many details from the unsealed Monsanto Papers are excluded from this case. The Plaintiff counsel is trying their best to make lemonade out of relatively little expository information.
Man, I’m glad that I stayed late because the good stuff goes down after the jury leaves the room.
For those who aren’t familiar with how a video testimony works – the jury sees edited clips of questioning from both sides. In the Farmer deposition, Plaintiff asked questions that were subsequently edited as suitable for the their side of the case. Monsanto also asked questions and edited those as they saw favorable to their side.
HERE’S THE SITUATION
The EPA issued something called a “Daily Reference Dose,” which is the estimate of daily glyphosate exposure that would not cause adverse effects throughout a lifetime. The EPA does not find any significant risk of glyphosate at any level, except for potential kidney defects in offspring at large exposures. With this in mind, they set their Reference Dose at 2mg/kg/day. (4)
Pursuant to Prop 65, the California OEHHA issued their No Significant Risk Level (NSRL), which is a measure of exposure quantity beneath which glyphosate is considered non-carcinogenic. This NSRL is set at .016mg/kg/day. Many argue that in terms of carcinogenicity, that level is still too high. It is still, however, 127x lower than the EPA recommendation.
I love this graphic from the Environmental Working Group (5):
A slope factor is a calculation used to estimate the risk of cancer associated with exposure to a carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic substance.
CAN OF WORMS
Monsanto brazenly cracked open a can of worms in what they chose to show the jury of Farmer’s testimony. They included a clip of Farmer discussing that the EPA Daily Reference Dose is 2mg/kg/day.
The Plaintiff has a witness, Dr. Sawyer, who is set to offer testimony on Johnson’s exposure. Under the terms of a pretrial hearing that determined what evidence is admissible in this trial, Sawyer is forbidden from offering testimony on his slope factor model, which attempts to calculate what level of exposure could have caused Johnson’s cancer. However, if Monsanto opted to open the door to information on the EPA slope analysis, then that door should be open for both parties.
Upon Wisner’s suggestion that the NSRL should now be permitted in testimony, Monsanto throws a fit, loudly fighting that allowing Sawyer to talk about the California NSRL “would completely unravel everything the court has done with regards to Prop 65.”
SO – we now have a showdown.
Wisner launches into a passionate speech, erupting with the words that we have all been thinking:
The purpose of a warning is public health…We have an independent agency (CA EPA) who has done what the EPA has done and used different science. The jury has now heard over 10 hours of testimony that the EPA doesn’t think glyphosate causes cancer. Then they open this door because they just can’t help themselves. California has done the SAME analysis with a different conclusion. It’s part of our case.
Wisner elaborates that California’s classification of glyphosate as carcinogenic under Prop 65 wasn’t done under some arcane structure. The California listing was made because the public policy in the state of California believes that if IARC deems something to be carcinogenic, then California will as well. The exclusion of information from the jury regarding California public policy is: “SO UNBELIEVABLY MISLEADING IT MAKES ME DIZZY!”
Wisner continues that there have been three different judges that have looked at this science. They have said that it’s fine and legitimate. “It drives me NUTS that selective disclosure of facts is becoming the norm. We have heard SO much about EFSA, Germany, the EPA, and if all goes to plan, the jury will also hear multiple Drs supporting the EPA.”
HOW ARE WE NOT BEING PREJUDICED HERE? WE CAN’T EVEN TELL THEM ABOUT THEIR OWN STATE!
Bolanos clarifies that: “The California EPA hasn’t made the same finding that the US EPA has made.”
Wisner says: “Don’t disregard this. California DID make a finding. Based on California law. Based on what California thinks. Somehow, Prop 65 is (believed by this court to be) arcane. The court should not be restricting this from the jury.”
Bolonos says that Prop 65 is not coming in because it is deemed a ministerial reflection of IARC.
Wisner argues that we can’t have Monsanto give this EPA Reference Dose and have the jury think it is about cancer, when in fact it is about birth defects. Sawyer needs to talk about why the EPA number is wrong. He should be able to clean that up for the jury, and part of that opinion relates to the NSRL.
Wisner says to Bolanos, “I can tell by your face this is an uphill battle.”
Monsanto throws another tantrum and threatens a mistrial if she permits the CA NSRL into testimony.
SUMMING IT UP:
I think that Bolanos started to see the issues a bit differently today. Something just felt different after Wisner’s speech(es). It was out of place for Bolanos to say: “The California EPA hasn’t made the same finding that the US EPA has made,” which is when I think something clicked.
Update 7/26 – I was wrong, Bolanos absolutely did not have a change of heart. Her rulings were brutal yesterday on the day off. Will elaborate more on today’s post.
Wednesday is off, Thursday back in court!
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