Consumer Power

Expert Witness From Landmark Monsanto Trial Offers 5 Fixes to Shortcomings in Current GE Food Regulations

Organic consumers - 9 hours 52 min ago
August 15, 2018Environmental Health NewsCharles BenbrookGenetic Engineering canola.png

Charles Benbrook on the mistakes made in the approval of the first genetically engineered crops—and what we can learn from them

Editor's note: Charles Benbrook served as an expert witness in support of Lee Johnson, a groundskeeper suffering from terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma following heavy use of, and exposures to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.

Johnson sued Monsanto and was awarded $289 million in damages last week, after the jury delivered a stunning, unanimous verdict against Monsanto. 

Hardly a day goes by without a new scientific paper or news coverage addressing problems down on the farm.

Just this month, for example, two studies highlighted the growing problem of weeds resistant to the herbicide glyphosate—the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup—and how this continues to push herbicide use, expenditures, and collateral damage upward. The more herbicide farmers spray, the faster herbicide efficacy slips.

The studies found:

- The effectiveness of Bt-cotton, which initially had positive impacts on yields, is now declining worldwide because of the spread of resistant insects. Bees exposed to glyphosate in a recently treated field have reduced brood survival and altered gut microbiomes.

-Both wild and managed pollinators are in decline as a result of exposure to toxics, loss of healthy habitat, and poor nutrition.

Unfortunately, there is no Plan B for committed, large-scale genetically engineered (GE) crop farmers, many of whom find themselves locked onto a costly herbicide-use treadmill.

For corn, soybean, and cotton farmers in the U.S., many of today's problems are rooted in bad decisions made in the early 1990s as first-generation, GE crops were reviewed and approved by government agencies, and then marketed by the industry.

In a new paper I focus on how the industry, regulators, and the scientific community dealt with the significant increase in selection pressure on insect populations and weed communities. 

Past mistakes in the testing and regulation of first-generation GE-crops are widely recognized. 

While there is general agreement of why the GE-crop train jumped the tracks, there has been little serious discussion of solutions and today, constructive engagement by regulators or Congress is nearly unimaginable. 

In the hope of triggering reforms, here are five fixes to shortcomings in current law and ag biotech regulation.

Problem #1: Excessive confidence in current federal regulation

Each new GE crop technology goes through a voluntary review of food safety risks triggered by a letter from technology developers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Through these "voluntary consultations," the companies provide basic information to the FDA on the genes moved into the new GE crop.

The primary focus of the FDA's voluntary consultation is whether the composition and nutrients in the GE crop is "substantially equivalent" to that of the not-engineered crop. The FDA reviews the data, raises any questions it has, and, in most cases, accepts the conclusions of the technology developer.

The FDA does not conduct an independent safety determination, nor does it do any testing of a newly proposed GE crop, but rather accepts the company's assertion of its safety. It is a shallow and flawed process, that has been "under review" for two decades, but persists because of the lack of consensus on a better way forward.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) focus in the regulatory review process is driven by an old federal statute, the Plant Pest Act. The USDA must determine whether the technology might trigger a new, or worsen an existing "plant pest" (i.e., a weed, insect, or fungal pathogen that attacks or competes with plants). If there is no evidence of such "plant pest" risk, the USDA deregulates the new GE-crop trait, and companies are then free to move the new trait into various crop cultivars.

In the case of GE crops that entail expression of compounds that act as pesticides, the EPA also has to approve the new crops under national pesticide law. For GE crops engineered to tolerate applications of herbicides after the crop has emerged and is actively growing, the EPA typically has to approve: (a) new and/or higher tolerance levels covering residues in food, and (b) herbicide product labels that contain different directions for use.

Each agency's role and authority is seriously limited because Congress has been unable to pass new legislation to give the agencies the tools and mandates needed to conduct thorough reviews of the risks, benefits, costs, and uncertainties associated with novel GE-crop technologies. As a result, pre-approval risk assessments are typically a mile wide but just inches deep. Some of the most worrisome risks are largely ignored. 

Problem #2: Ignoring “inert” ingredients

Every pesticide sold to farmers contains one or more "active ingredients" that kill or control pests, and several "inert ingredients" that help assure the pesticide accomplishes its desired impact.

Inert ingredients help keep the active ingredient in suspension, and assure the pesticide sticks to plant or weed tissues long enough to be absorbed or come into contact with an insect pest. Some promote compatibility when mixed with other pesticides or liquid fertilizers, prior to spraying on a field.

For decades, a dangerous myth has persisted -- "inert ingredients" in formulated, ready-for-sale pesticides are not harmful to human health and the environment. For this reason, the impact of inert ingredients are not taken into account when the industry and government conducts a risk assessment of an active ingredient. Federal law classifies inert ingredients as "Confidential Business Information" (CBI), and blocks disclosure to poison control centers and physicians routinely treating pesticide poisoning victims.

The heightened toxicity of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides, in contrast to pure glyphosate, played a dual role in Lee Johnson's trial in San Francisco, CA. 

EPA's near-sole focus on the toxicity of pure glyphosate undermined the relevance of the agency's reassuring risk assessment, since no one ever sprays, or is exposed to pure glyphosate. 

Monsanto's systematic effort over decades to suppress chronic animal studies on formulated Roundup, despite knowing from its own studies that the inert ingredients in its many Roundup brands increased risks substantially, no doubt influenced the jury, especially as it pondered the award of punitive damages. 

Old myths die hard, despite the now well-known fact that inert ingredients in the world's leading, formulated herbicide, Roundup, and the world's leading family of insecticides (called neonicotinyls) dramatically increase toxicity to organisms up and down the tree of life, including people. 

The policy fixes for problem #2 are obvious and simple—Congress needs to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to: (a) require all active and inert ingredients to be disclosed on pesticide product labels, and (b) direct the EPA to require chronic feeding studies in mice and rats on at least some major formulations when there is evidence from short-term testing of heightened toxicity following exposures to formulated pesticides, as opposed to pure active ingredients.

Problem # 3: Lack of real-world monitoring 

Despite shortcomings in risk assessments, regulators generally are aware of the major areas of concern and uncertainty. In the first few years post-approval of a new GE technology, research and mandatory monitoring should be conducted to gain deeper understanding of human exposures and risks, unforeseen environmental impacts, or whether efficacy is slipping or uneven, raising the risk of resistance.

By targeting such monitoring in areas where new GE technology, and/or associated pesticides, have been most rapidly adopted, post-approval monitoring can serve as an early-warning system. Data gathered can alert the industry, farmers, and regulators of the need for more in-depth study and possible changes in the way a pesticide or GE-crop technology is used.

Problem #4: Focusing on one pesticide at a time

Regulators focus on the impact of one pesticide at a time, in isolation. Yet, adverse impacts arise as a result of all the pesticides, toxics, and technology deployed by farmers in a given area.

Tactical changes within prevention-based pest management systems are the surest way to achieve real progress toward safer pest management. Tweaking labels can reduce risks at the margins, but do nothing to stabilize failing pest management systems.

Both farmers and regulators need help, and new tools to recognize when a pest management system is failing because of the spread of resistant organisms, emergence of secondary pests, or unacceptable collateral damage on the environment, human health, or international trade flows. 

In such cases, systemic pesticide regulatory interventions need to be considered that help farmers move away from heavy reliance on pesticides, and toward multi-tactic, prevention-based management systems. 

Problem # 5: Lack of tools for struggling farmers 

Pest management specialists generally agree on the factors eroding the efficacy of a pest management system, or nudging risks and costs incrementally higher year to year. But they lack the tools and support needed to convince farmers to adopt system changes to alter underlying crop and pest-population dynamics.

Finding ways to reduce reliance on pesticides has proven elusive over the last half-century, despite general consensus that such system changes are necessary, especially in the case of pest management systems in active decline (e.g., soybean and cotton weed management; whiteflies and thrips in some vegetable and citrus crops). 

Tackling this 5th problem will be difficult and take time. Fortunately, progress in addressing the other four problems will reduce risks in the interim, while also encouraging farmers to invest more management attention in preventing spikes in pest populations. 

Ironically, reducing reliance on pesticides is the surest way to assure effective ones will be accessible when really needed.

Charles Benbrook is a Visiting Scholar in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Newcastle in the U.K. 

Benbrook has served as an expert witness in several major pesticide and food-labeling related cases in which government regulatory policy has played a central role. He worked as a testifying expert in the Lee Johnson case, and is involved in other, similar litigation. 

Visit his website or contact him at charlesbenbrook@gmail.com.

Posted with permission from Environmental Health News.

Monsanto's Loss Is Our Gain—Let's Make the Most of It

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-08-14 15:38
August 14, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering roundup glyphosate herbicide shelf cc 1200x630.jpg

First, let’s say a big, collective “Thank you.”

Thank you to the 12 jurors who listened attentively and critically, during long days of testimony, then deliberated with care, and ultimately did the right thing.

Thank you to the lawyers who invested countless hours in investigative work and trial preparation, and who argued rationally and intelligently on behalf of the plaintiff, science and ethics.

Thank you to those media outlets and advocacy organizations who covered the case, pored over the “Monsanto Papers” and took seriously their obligation to inform the public.

But most of all, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, the plaintiff in the Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto case. For his persistence in getting to the bottom of what caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. For his bravery in going up against one of the most powerful corporations in the world.

And for his refusal to give up, no matter the toll on his family, and on his failing health.

As our director, Ronnie Cummins, said in an interview this week about the trial, and about Monsanto’s corruption and deception:

“We talk about these things in the abstract. But when you see the face of a victim, it literally brings these issues home.”

Day of reckoning: ‘guilty’ on all counts

Media outlets across the globe lit up on Friday, August 10, when jury members filed into a San Francisco courtroom and handed a piece of paper to Judge Suzanne Bolano who read off, one by one, their answers to each of the 17 questions the jurors were asked.

The jury’s decision was unanimous: Monsanto was guilty of manufacturing and selling a product that caused Johnson’s cancer. What’s more, the company knew its product could cause cancer—and yet it intentionally hid that fact from Johnson and the public.

Johnson’s victory is a victory not just for one man and his family, but for anyone who has fought the good fight against Monsanto, including victims still living and those who have died.

It’s also a beginning, not an end. There are thousands of lawsuits already teed up against Monsanto. The next trial is set to take place in October, in Monsanto’s backyard, St. Louis, Missouri. In all, so far, there are about 4,000 plaintiffs lined up to sue Monsanto. And Friday’s victory in San Francisco will likely empower tens of thousands more victims to come forth.

Let’s hope that the old adage, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” will hold true as these lawsuits roll out.

Of course, that’s not the way Monsanto, and its new owner, Germany-based Bayer, see it. Bayer, which has its own dark history of selling poisons, including bee-killing neonicotinoids, wasted no time claiming that Monsanto’s flagship Roundup weedkiller is “safe.” But shareholders weren’t so sure—they sent Bayer stocks into a freefall after the guilty verdict. And with good reason, given the number of pending lawsuits against Monsanto, plus those yet to be filed.

Barron’s this week quoted an industry analyst who said that Monsanto’s new parent company is probably experiencing a heavy dose of “Bayer’s remorse.” Michael Leacock, an analyst with Frankfurt-based Mainfirst Bank, told Barron’s:

“If a settlement were to emerge, following more lost suits, the total cost, in our view, could easily reach USD10bn (assuming USD 1m per plaintiff, and twice the current number of plaintiffs) or about 11 percent of the current market cap of Bayer.”

That’s a big hit for a company that shelled out $66 billion to buy Monsanto.

Monsanto also came out swinging after the verdict was announced, no surprise there. In a statement, Vice-President Scott Partridge wrote:

Glyphosate is not the answer. Glyphosate does not cause cancer. The jury got it wrong. We will appeal the jury’s opinion and continue to vigorously defend glyphosate, which is an essential tool for farmers and others. We are confident science will prevail upon appeal.

Partridge is of course referring to “Monsanto science,” the kind that the biotech industry manufactures, in quantities rivaling those of its toxic chemicals, and uses to attack legitimate studies and the scientists who conduct them.

Ironically, it was Monsanto’s aggressive strategy of manipulating science that contributed to its undoing in the Johnson case. As U.S. Right to Know’s Carey Gillam reported last week:

Monsanto, which became a unit of Bayer AG in June, has spent decades convincing consumers, farmers, politicians and regulators to ignore mounting evidence linking its glyphosate-based herbicides to cancer and other health problems. The company has employed a range of tactics – some drawn from the same playbook used by the tobacco industry in defending the safety of cigarettes—to suppress and manipulate scientific literature, harass journalists and scientists who did not parrot the company’s propaganda, and arm-twist and collude with regulators. Indeed, one of Monsanto’s lead defense attorneys in the San Francisco case was George Lombardi, whose resumé boasts of his work defending big tobacco.

Regulatory agencies on trial, too

Friday’s verdict isn’t just an indictment of Monsanto and Bayer. It’s also a scathing indictment of regulatory agencies in countries around the world, and especially of the agencies here in the U.S.—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration—all of which have failed miserably at their jobs: to protect our health and home.

As Cummins says in his interview, we need to make the most of this victory against Monsanto by ramping up pressure on our politicians and government agencies to clean up their acts, and do their jobs: “There’s no way to stay a-political. We’ve all got to get involved in politics.”

In the meantime, Johnson and other victims, and all of those who care about the future of food and farming, will continue to take our case the courts, where we’re finally beginning to reap some rewards. Friday’s verdict followed on the heels of a federal court ruling requiring the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin especially damaging to kids. The agency had banned the pesticide under the Obama administration, only to have the ban overturned when Trump’s EPA took over.

And, we’ll keep giving thanks—to all those who have been fighting this battle for decades, and who are committed to seeing it through until corporations and governments stop the insane practice of poisoning our food and environment.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

#MonsantoTrial

Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry's Farmworker Exploitation

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-08-13 20:07
August 13, 2018Michael ColbyFair Trade & Social Justice hands_1200x630.png

These are harrowing times for the nearly 1,500 migrant workers laboring on Vermont’s largest dairy farms. These farmworkers, predominantly from Mexico, are forced to live in the shadows, where their farm bosses harbor them in exchange for long hours, low wages, and cheap housing. It’s a human rights stain on the state, allowing these migrant workers to live and be treated this way. And it continues because there’s a whole lot of “looking away” from the deep-rooted ugliness of this system, which has been described by human rights advocates as “close to slavery.”

Worse than looking away, with its implicit acceptance of the exploitation, is the complicit role Vermont’s dairy industry giants are playing to maximize their profits on the backs of this cheap labor. As the state’s near-billion-dollar-a-year ice cream and cheese corporations – Ben & Jerry’s and Cabot Creamery – continue to pay less than the cost of production for its dairy supply, Vermont’s remaining 700-or-so dairy farms are forced to cut costs at every opportunity, particularly when it comes to labor. Gone are the days when these farm jobs were filled by neighbors and community members, as the danger, speed, scale and filth – coupled with poverty-level wages — has made it impossible to attract local workers.

But Ben & Jerry’s took its complicity in the migrant worker exploitation to a whole new level of cruel and delusional recently when, in what can only be called a publicity stunt, corporate officials announced that its “Milk with Dignity” program was successfully addressing the migrant labor problem. At a hastily called press conference just days after the ice cream giant was stung by a consumer deception lawsuit by the Organic Consumer Association, claiming its health and environmental claims were fraudulent, Ben & Jerry’s revved up its public relations machine and, in search of some positive marketing spin, declared themselves to be “succeeding” in addressing the migrant labor issue.

Missing from the event, however, were any actual farmworkers to attest to Ben & Jerry’s cynical spin. The one farmworker who was scheduled to appear did not show up, creating a rather awkward moment when it was announced he “couldn’t get off his milking shift.” Sadly, it was a very believable excuse, as research shows that Vermont’s migrant dairy workers are putting in close to 80 hours a week. There was no similar attendance problem for the six-figure-salaried Ben & Jerry’s executives and their bevy of assistants, who showed up en mass to tell the media just how wonderful things were for the 250 farmworkers in its program, regardless of the fact that not one of them could get time off to be there.

Of course, it’s about more than just getting time off.  There is a very real – and understandable — fear within the migrant community about leaving the farm. Unlike other migrant farmworkers, those laboring in the dairy industry have no rights or legal standing because their work is considered permanent, not seasonal like the work associated with fruit or vegetable production, where farmworkers get temporary H-2 visas.

There are no such visas available for dairy workers. They are defined as “illegal” by the federal government, leaving them in constant jeopardy of arrest and deportation. And it’s worse in the current political climate, where increasingly aggressive ICE tactics become the norm, leaving them vulnerable at all times, even while doing the most mundane daily tasks like going to the store, visiting the doctor, or simply driving our roadways. It is no way to live in the land of the free.

Besides, the last time migrant farmworkers appeared publicly at Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury, Vermont headquarters, two were arrested by ICE agents on their way home, beginning a long legal ordeal they eventually won with enormous community support, but not after extended incarceration and weeks of lost wages. Those arrests occurred last summer, 2017, when the farmworkers were marching on Ben & Jerry’s to contrast their abysmal conditions and pay with the corporation’s exploding profits, growing at more than $100 million a year, and to demonstrate their frustration over the three-year stall that was happening with the Milk with Dignity negotiations. [Disclaimer: I marched with them.]

Those profiting from this exploited labor, the large dairy farmers and the dairy buyers like Ben & Jerry’s, don’t share in any of the legal risks born by the workers. They don’t fear arrests for their role in the “illegal” nature of the arrangement, and they remain fully insulated from the near-constant worries about being caught. It is a pure and blatant show of privilege, for sure.

But it’s within this reality – this core of exploitation — that Ben & Jerry’s would now like the public to believe that progress is being made for these farmworkers. They point to the Milk with Dignity agreement they finally signed last year in partnership with Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based nonprofit that campaigns for the rights of migrant workers. While negotiating the “Code of Conduct” that was more than three years in the making, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was a major funder of its negotiating partners, Migrant Justice. Foundation records show that they gave the nonprofit at least $75,000 during negotiations.

They were together again at the press event in July to applaud their farmworker “progress.”  It came with the typical Ben & Jerry’s hype and circumstance. They spoke, for example, about the 72 farms that had signed up for the program, where roughly 250 migrant workers are employed, representing just 17% of the state’s total migrant workforce.

But what they didn’t tell the people gathering for the publicity stunt was that there’s no connection between signing up for the program and adhering to the program’s Code of Conduct, the nitty-gritty of the agreement that outlines the farmworker protections. Among the most touted aspects of the Code are a “right” to the prevailing minimum wage (current $10.50/hour), one day off a week, 8 hours off per 24 hours of work, a real bed – not straw piles, and running water.

“Compliance with the Code of Conduct is the goal,” reported Will Lambek of Migrant Justice, in an interview with Regeneration Vermont after the press event.

And when asked how many of the 72 farms that have signed up for the program are in compliance, Lambek replied: “Zero.”

Unfortunately, that bit of truth didn’t make it into the fawning media coverage the well-orchestrated press event received, including a short New York Times piece that was headlined, “Farm Worker Program a Success.” It was the kind of coverage that must have had them dancing in the corporate headquarters of Unilever, the European mega-corporation that owns the Ben & Jerry’s brand, among dozens of others, where market share – not social justice – is the primary goal. Unilever has called for Ben & Jerry’s to be among its billion-dollar-a-year-brands by 2020.

The media coverage also dutifully reported on Ben & Jerry’s assertions of a “third party” that was set up to monitor and enforce the “improvements” for the farmworkers, the Milk with Dignity Standards Council. Not disclosed, however, was the close financial relationship between the ice cream corporation and this “third party.”

“Ben & Jerry’s provided the initial financial support to the Council,” said Rob Michalak, Ben & Jerry’s Director of Social Impact, in an interview with Regeneration Vermont. And, according to Michalak and Lambek, most of the Council’s enforcement and compliance efforts continue to be funded by Ben & Jerry’s, via premiums paid to farms that sign up for the program.

Regeneration Vermont asked for the details on these premiums, including total amounts paid out this year, the average per farm, and specifics about how these premiums were improving the conditions and salaries of the farmworkers.

“We don’t make that public,” replied Ben & Jerry’s Michalak.

“We’re not disclosing that,” offered Migrant Justice’s Lambek. “There’s a dearth of specifics.”

But Lambek did point to the “testimonials page” of his group’s website, where evidence of the program’s success could be found, he claimed. The testimonials, however, only prove the voluntary nature of the Code of Conduct, as one featured farmworker, identified only as “David,” underscoring the fear of even being able to use their own names in relation to this “successful” program, declared that “now I have two full days off a month.” The Code of Conduct calls for at least four days off a month. But it’s just a goal, with “success” being a moving target, as long as it’s subservient to Ben & Jerry’s marketing and sales, apparently.

Finally, there was much fanfare about the “hotline” that the Milk with Dignity program set up for farmworkers to call if they had complaints about their working conditions, treatment or even pay. It was reported that several dozen calls had already been made to the hotline. But, once again, the nature of these calls and, more importantly, the results were “not being made public,” according to Lambek.

Which brings us to what is perhaps the biggest loophole in the program, the annual nature of the farms’ commitment to it. Each year, every one of the current 72 farms has the right to simply opt out of the program, with no consequences other than no longer being eligible for the secret premiums. So if  — or when — the Ben & Jerry’s-funded Standards Council starts to really make demands on these farms, or decides to enforce compliance with things like earning a minimum wage or not having a pile of straw be called a bed, these farms can simply walk away, thus arguably leaving the farmworkers at these farms even more vulnerable, not just to the conditions and treatment but also to potential retaliation.

And how would Ben & Jerry’s respond to this? “Our goal is to have enough farms signed up to cover our dairy purchasing universe,” reported Ben & Jerry’s Michalek. “So if farms left the program, we’d have to find replacements.”

In other words, Ben & Jerry’s just wants enough farms signed up for its Milk with Dignity program every year so that they can say the amount of milk produced by these farms is roughly the same as the amount of milk they purchase, regardless of the farms’ long-term commitment to the program.

Those 72 farms exist within the universe of the more than 300 farms that ship milk to Ben & Jerry’s dairy supplier, the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery. Since none of the milk from these 72 farms is segregated for the exclusive use for Ben & Jerry’s and its products, it wouldn’t be hard for farm replacements to be found amongst the other 230 farms not currently in the program, thus beginning – again – the road to compliance. Until, that is, they, too, might find it too burdensome, potentially creating a revolving door of farm participation in the program, keeping it alive for public relations purposes but leaving the farmworkers unprotected.

It’s this lack of segregation of Ben & Jerry’s dairy supply that is central to the “deceptive labeling and marketing” lawsuit filed against the corporation earlier this summer by OCA. Those 72 farms are also considered to be part of yet another publicity stunt by Ben & Jerry’s, known as its “Caring Dairy” program, which makes claims about pesticide use, water quality and animal welfare on those farms. But, again, the program is voluntary, policed by those funded by Ben & Jerry’s, and none of the milk from these supposedly “caring” dairies is dedicated to the Ben & Jerry’s product line. It’s just marketing, and, as OCA asserts, “deceptive marketing,” because not only do most of these “caring” farms still use pesticides, antibiotics, GMO feed corn, and full-time cow confinement, none of them have a direct and verifiable relationship to what’s in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The milk they produce might be in that pint of ice cream, or, more likely given the odds, it might not. But the public relations show must go on.

Unfortunately, these kinds of marketing gimmicks are nothing new to Ben & Jerry’s. We all remember, for example, how they were going to “save the Rainforest” with a mere flavor, or that the wars of the world would be ended with its “1% for Peace” donations. And with each gimmick, the public relations game is the same: Quick and easy publicity to boost sales and then move on to the next, great claim.

But these kinds of marketing games cross a line when it comes to farmworkers and basic human rights and dignity. These are truly scary times for the migrant workers on the farms that supply Ben & Jerry’s, where they live in abject fear of arrest and deportation – 24 hours a day, including the 8 of which Ben & Jerry’s “hopes” to let them have off. They have no legal standing or rights, with or without a “Milk with Dignity” program.

Worse, the false publicity generated from its Milk with Dignity program creates the impression that progress is being made for these still-exploited farmworkers. It’s still a migrant worker scenario that is “close to slavery,” which, at best, is made a little bit better if you trust the unverified claims. But where is the dignity in a system that’s just a little bit better than close to slavery?

In the end, as is always the case with these publicity stunts, there’s only one, verifiable place where progress is made: Ben & Jerry’s rising sales and the growing profits shipped off to its parent corporation, Unilever.

To which, we say: No justice, no ice cream.

Michael Colby is the president of Regeneration Vermont, a nonprofit that documents the threats of industrial agriculture while promoting regenerative alternatives. He is also a campaign consultant to the Organic Consumers Association.

'Guilty on All Counts!': In Historic Victory, Monsanto Ordered to Pay $289 Million in Roundup Cancer Lawsuit

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-08-10 23:18
Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationCommon DreamsAugust 10, 2018 ban stop roundup 1000x523.png

Strikingly, the majority of the fine imposed was $200 million in punitive damages against Monsanto for "acting with malice and oppression"

In an historic victory for those who have long sought to see agro-chemical giant Monsanto held to account for the powerful company's toxic and deadly legacy, a court in California on Friday found the corporation liable for damages suffered by a cancer patient who alleged his sickness was directly caused by exposure to the glyphosate-based herbicides, including the  widely used weed-killer Roundup.

As Reuter reports:

The case of school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was the first lawsuit alleging glyphosate causes cancer to go to trial.

Monsanto, a unit of Bayer AG following a $62.5 billion acquisition by the German conglomerate, faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States. 

The jury at San Francisco's Superior Court of California deliberated for three days before finding that Monsanto had failed to warn Johnson and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by its weed killers.  It awarded $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages.

As Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer representing Johnson in the case, declared on Twitter, the court "awarded 200 million in punitive damages against Monsanto for 'acting with malice and oppression.'"

HUGE WIN in #MonsantoTrial! #MONSANTO GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS!https://t.co/Bi9xtGyuDN

— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) August 10, 2018

The Organic Consumers Association, an advocacy group and longtime critic of Monsanto's deadly poisons, celebrated the verdict:

VICTORY! @MonsantoCo GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS! https://t.co/AdtvixExCs

— Organic Consumers (@OrganicConsumer) August 10, 2018

Journalist Tom Philpott also put the ruling in context, noting that even while the Trump administration is doing its best to lift restrictions on toxic pesticides and the chemical industry, the courts appear to be coming around to the unique and far-reaching dangers posed by pesticides, herbicides, and other powerful compounds:

Oh and of course yesterday’s rebuke from the 9th Circuit on the EPA for blessing Dow-DoPont’s neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos. https://t.co/SsXEx8u3KR

— Tom Philpott (@tomphilpott) August 10, 2018

Posted with permission from Common Dreams

Monsanto Loses Landmark Roundup Weedkiller Case; Jury Awards $289M to Cancer Victim

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-08-10 23:03
Genetic EngineeringAugust 10, 2018 roundup blue bottle red guilty stamp cc 1200x630.jpg

Contact: Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, 207-653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org;

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today issued this statement in response to today’s verdict in the case of Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co., awarding $289.2 million in damages to plaintiff Dwayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who, after being required to spray Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is terminally ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“This verdict proves that when ordinary citizens, in this case a jury of 12, hear the facts about Monsanto’s products, and the lengths to which this company has gone to buy off scientists, deceive the public and influence government regulatory agencies, there is no confusion,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director. “This is a company that has always put profits ahead of public safety, and today, Monsanto has finally been held accountable.

“We hope that this is just the first of many defeats for Monsanto, and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will pull this product off the market immediately. In the meantime, OCA looks forward to the next steps in our own lawsuit against Monsanto, for misleading consumers about the safety of Roundup for humans and pets. And we are grateful to Mr. Johnson for bravely facing down the 'most evil corporation' in the world.”

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit consumer advocacy organization representing a network of more than 1 million consumers in the U.S. Visit www.organicconsumers.org.

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FDA Investigating Possible Link Between Factory Farms and Tainted Lettuce

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-08-10 14:34
August 8, 2018Common DreamsWenonah HauterAll About Organics romaine.png

Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

Washington - This week, the FDA acknowledged it is investigating whether a nearby massive concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), or factory farm, could be the source of E. coli contamination of romaine lettuce earlier this year. The tainted lettuce resulted in hundreds of illnesses in 36 states and resulted in five deaths.

According to Food & Water Watch’s Factory Farm Map, an analysis of USDA data on factory farms, the density of cattle feedlots in the region where the tainted lettuce was grown is extreme. In Yuma county in 2012, cattle feedlots had an estimated average of over 67,000 head of cattle per facility. In the region implicated in the outbreak, samples of nearby irrigation canal water tested positive for the same strain of E. coli that caused the outbreak. The canal is close to a CAFO that can hold in excess of 100,000 head of cattle at any one time. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“It is unsurprising that a factory farm could be the source of this massive E. coli outbreak. We know they are a dangerous public health menace on a variety of fronts. Packing tens of thousands of animals in at these industrial facilities leads to massive amounts of water and air pollution that the surrounding environment simply cannot absorb safely. The only reason they exist is to increase meat industry profits. But it is happening at the expense of our health and our lives.

“This is the latest reason – and one of many reasons – that we need to ban factory farms. It’s unacceptable that this business model continues to exist when we know there are so many risks to human health and the environment. The factory farm industry is spreading antibiotic resistance, polluting our food and drinking water, spewing noxious particulate pollution into surrounding communities, imperiling workers, and contributing to climate chaos. Any one of these factors alone show the need to ban these facilities. Taken all together, it is clear that we urgently must prioritize policies that support small-scale, diversified meat production, not factory farms.”

Posted with permission from Common Dreams.

Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-08-09 19:17
August 8, 2018Common DreamsMatt TaibbiPolitics & Globalization fb2_1200x630.jpg

The social network is too big and broken to properly function, and these “fixes” will only create more problems

You may have seen a story this week detailing how Facebook shut down a series of accounts. As noted by Politico, Facebook claimed these accounts “sought to inflame social and political tensions in the United States, and said their activity was similar — and in some cases connected — to that of Russian accounts during the 2016 election.”

Similar? What does “similar” mean?

The death-pit for civil liberties is usually found in a combination of fringe/unpopular people or ideas and a national security emergency.

This is where we are with this unsettling new confab of Facebook, Congress and the Trump administration.

Read this jarring quote from Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) about the shutting down of the “inauthentic” accounts:

“Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation… I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress…”

This was in a story in which Facebook stated that it did not know the source of all the pages. They might be Russian, or they might just be Warner’s idea of “sowing division.” Are we comfortable with that range of possibilities?

Many of the banned pages look like parodies of some paranoid bureaucrat’s idea of dangerous speech.

A page called “Black Elevation” shows a picture of Huey Newton and offers readers a job. “Aztlan Warriors” contains a meme celebrating the likes of Geronimo and Zapata, giving thanks for their service in the “the 500 year war against colonialism.”

And a banned “Mindful Being” page shared this, which seems culled from Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts bit:

“We must unlearn what we have learned because a conditioned mind cannot comprehend the infinite.”

Facebook also wiped out a “No Unite The Right 2” page, appearing to advertise a counter-rally on the upcoming anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Facebook was “helped” in its efforts to wipe out these dangerous memes by the Atlantic Council, on whose board you’ll find confidence-inspiring names like Henry Kissinger, former CIA chief Michael Hayden, former acting CIA head Michael Morell and former Bush-era Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. (The latter is the guy who used to bring you the insane color-coded terror threat level system.)

These people now have their hands on what is essentially a direct lever over nationwide news distribution. It’s hard to understate the potential mischief that lurks behind this union of Internet platforms and would-be government censors.

As noted in Rolling Stone earlier this year, 70 percent of Americans get their news from just two sources, Facebook and Google. As that number rises, the power of just a few people to decide what information does and does not reach the public will amplify significantly.

In a way, this is the other shoe dropping after last week’s much-publicized brouhaha over Infowars lunatic Alex Jones. Jones had four videos removed from YouTube and had his Facebook page banned for 30 days, though he seemed to find a way around that more or less instantly.

These moves were celebrated across social media, because who doesn’t hate Alex Jones?

The complainants in the Jones case included parents of Sandy Hook victims, who have legitimate beef with Jones and his conspiratorial coverage. The Infowars reports asserting the grieving parents were green-screen fakes were not just demonstrably false and rightfully the subject of a defamation suit, but also seemingly crossed a separate line when they published maps and addresses of family members, who experienced threats.

When Jones and his like-minded pals cried censorship and bias, they came across as more than a little disingenuous. After all, right-wingers have consistently argued on behalf of the speech rights of big corporations.

Conservative justices have handed down rulings using the First Amendment to hold back regulation of big tobacco and the gun industry, and to justify unlimited campaign spending. Citizens United was a crucial moment in the degradation of the First Amendment, essentially defining corporate influence as speech.

As many pointed out last week, the Jones ban was not a legal speech issue – not exactly, anyway. No matter how often Jones yelped about “Hitler levels of censorship,” and no matter how many rambling pages he and his minions typed up in their “emergency report” on the “deep state plan to kill the First Amendment,” it didn’t change the objectively true fact their ban was not (yet) a First Amendment issue.

The First Amendment, after all, only addresses the government’s power to restrict speech. It doesn’t address what Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter can do as private companies, enforcing their terms of service.

So it’s true, there was no First Amendment issue with the Jones ban. But that’s the problem.

The pre-Internet system for dealing with defamatory and libelous speech was litigation, which was pretty effective. The standard for punishment was also very high. In the 1964 Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan — the bedrock case for libel law involving a public figure — the court went out of its way to make sure that complainants needed to prove reckless or knowing disregard for fact.

Among other things, the court worried that absent such a tough legal standard, outlets would play it too safe with speech, and “make only statements which ‘steer far wider of the unlawful zone.’”

This mostly worked. Historically there were few analogs to Infowars that got anything like wide distribution because of the financial threat, which scared publishers most of all. In order to have power to distribute widely you needed resources, but you put those resources at risk if you defamed people.

That all changed with digital media. Way back in 1996, when mastodons roamed the earth and people used dial-up to connect to the Internet, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act.It contained the following landmark language:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Essentially this meant that Internet providers wouldn’t be treated like news organizations. In the eyes of the law, they were less like CBS or Random House than they were bookstores or newsstands.

The rule allowed platforms to grow exponentially without the same fear of litigation. Companies like Facebook and Google became all-powerful media distributors, and were able to profit from InfoWars-style programs without having to be liable for them.

This led to the flowering of so much obnoxious speech that the First Amendment acquired a reputation as a racist con, and online media distributors, instead of being sued themselves as publishers, began to be viewed as potential restorers of order, beneficent censors.

Now, at a moment of crisis and high political tension, the public seems unable to grasp the gravity of allowing the government or anyone else to use that power.

It is already a scandal that these de facto private media regulators have secret algorithmic processes that push down some news organizations in favor of others. Witness the complaints by outlets like Alternet, Truthdig and others that big platforms have been de-emphasizing alternative sites in the name of combating “fake news.”

But this week’s revelation is worse. When Facebook works with the government and wannabe star-chamber organizations like the Atlantic Council to delete sites on national security grounds, using secret methodology, it opens the door to nightmare possibilities that you’d find in dystopian novels.

The sheer market power of these companies over information flow has always been the real threat. This is why breaking them up should have long ago become an urgent national priority.

Instead, as was obvious during the Senate hearing with Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year, politicians are more interested in using than curtailing the power of these companies. The platforms, for their part, will cave rather than be regulated. The endgame here couldn’t be clearer. This is how authoritarian marriages begin, and people should be very worried.

Posted with permission from Common Dreams.

A 'Hothouse' Future for Humanity: Scientists Behind Terrifying Climate Analysis Hope They Are Wrong

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-08-09 19:06
August 7, 2018Common DreamsJon QueallyEnvironment & Climate untitled-81.png

"This is, by far, the biggest political issue in the world. It is the one thing that will affect everyone on the planet for centuries to come. Why isn't everyone shouting it from the rooftops?"

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity's future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

"I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real," Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. "We need to know now. It's so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science."

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creating a series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores "the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a 'Hothouse Earth' pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene."

As Rockström explains, the "tipping elements" examined in the research "can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another." And in an interview with the BBC, he added,  "What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium."

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose "severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans."

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

"In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight," said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study. "The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late."

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that "collective human action is required" to steer planet's systems away from dangerous tipping points. "Such action," they write, "entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."

Posted with permission from Common Dreams.

Monsanto Witness Admits Calculations Were Wildly Wrong

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-08-09 15:15
August 9, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kevin BaumGenetic Engineering, Health Issues roundup_cancer.jpg

Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company is the first Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper, alleges exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Johnson is one of thousands of plaintiffs to file suit against Monsanto in state court over the alleged link between Roundup and NHL. More than 450 other lawsuits filed in federal court are currently pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Since the start of the Johnson trial, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, has provided running commentary of the events in court each day. Here's his post for Aug. 2 on the Monsanto trial:

As its expert in reproductive toxicology, Monsanto called Dr. Warren Foster to the stand on August 2 to attack the animal studies cited by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). IARC relied on those studies for its determination that glyphosate is a carcinogen.

Foster, a professor at McMaster University in Ontario, has Ph.Ds in “medical sciences” and veterinary sciences. He admitted under cross that he never studied glyphosate nor its carcinogenicity before Monsanto paid him to testify.

When I learned that Foster hailed from Ontario and worked for Environment Canada (Canada’s EPA), I wondered how a Canadian environmental bureaucrat, a species famous for straight shooting, integrity and idealism, could have become mired in Monsanto’s sordid mischief. His long ponytail somehow made his association with the chemical company even more incongruous.

During a break, my colleague, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law, asked Foster, good naturedly, about his queue, “Are you a hippy or a Harley enthusiast?” Foster chuckled, “I’m no motorcycle rider.” By the end of the morning session, Wisner had developed an amiable rapport with the witness, and Foster all but confessed that the temptation of Monsanto’s money had set him on this mathematical misadventure.

Wisner: “You're not a statistician, right?”

Foster: “No, I'm not.”

Wisner: “But you would agree that numbers are important?”

Foster: “Numbers are always important, especially on my paycheck.”

Reflecting about Foster over lunch, Wisner remarked to me, “It’s clear his head isn’t in this. He just is not a natural liar. I almost want to ask him to come work for us, I get the idea that he’d flip in a second.”

On direct examination, Monsanto’s attorney, Kirby Griffis, had led Foster through each of the animal studies relied upon by IARC. The legal justification for Foster’s objection was his contention that, in virtually all of those studies, the exposed mice developed tumors at lower rates than historical background levels, which he pegged at six tumors for every 50 mice, or 12 percent of mice.

Foster arrived at that astonishingly lofty 12 percent, by averaging the data he said he compiled on background cancer rates in mice from the so-called “Charles River” studies and the “Wood Analysis” published respectively in 2000, 2005 and 2009. After establishing that background threshold, Foster described how he had literally thrown away the IARC studies one at a time when they all showed glyphosate-exposed mice with fewer than six tumors in every 50 mice.

Under direction by Griffis, Foster drew a line on a graph plotting the six tumors/50 mice slope showing each of the IARC studies with all the exposed mice below the plot line. It was all very convincing, but, unfortunately for Monsanto, not true!

When on cross examination, Wisner escorted Foster on more attentive stroll through the same calculations of the “Charles River” data, Foster cheerfully discovered that he had made an essential mathematical error in determining his background average. He now confessed that it was mathematically impossible to arrive at an average of six tumors per 50 mice as the background range, and that his proposed 12 percent of control group mice with tumors was categorically false. Foster blamed afternoon drowsiness for his consequential error.

Wisner: “Mr. Griffis just pointed this out to you, and this is your chart talking about the lymphomas, right?”

Foster: “Correct.”

Wisner: “And you opined and told this jury that the rate is at six out of 50, so that's 12 percent, right?”

Foster: “Correct.”

Wisner: “Now, you arrived at that 12 percent number and you showed the jury this document.  Do you recall that?”

Foster: “I do.”

Wisner: “Now, the Wood study that you’re referring to, that was published in 2009, right?”

Foster: “Correct.”

Wisner: “And… I was going through it over lunch, and I found this table. This is Table 3. Do you see that?”

Foster: “Yes, I do.”

Wisner: “And this is the neoplasms in males, right?”

Foster: “Yes.”

Wisner: “And this is tabulating all the data from [your] charts?”

Foster: “Correct.”

Wisner: “And if we turn to "Malignant Lymphoma, Whole Body"—Do you see that?”

Foster: “Yes.”

Wisner: “—it says "Percent of Total, 4.09 Percent" –”

Foster: “Uh-huh.”

Wisner: “—right? 4.09 percent of 50 would be two tumors, not six?”

Foster: “Uh-huh.”

Wisner: “Right? Are you familiar with this document, sir?”

Foster: “Yes, I am.”

Wisner: “This is an updated version of the [earlier 2000 study about which he earlier testified?]”

Foster: “Correct.”

Wisner: “This is the same group of authors, and they're talking about the same thing, Spontaneous Neoplastic Lesions in CD-1 mice, but this is dated March 2005.”

Foster: “Correct.”

Wisner: “And we have the lymphoma? Do you see that, sir?”

Foster: “Yes.”

Wisner: “Again, that's a 4.5 percent, right?”

Foster: “Correct.”

Wisner: “And that would be—4.5 percent out 50 would be what? What would that be, 2.25?”

Foster: “About that, yes.”

Wisner: “We talked about how important numbers are, and this is that chart you created. If, in fact, we were to use the numbers from those publications, [your plot] line would actually be a third. It would be down here, wouldn't it?”

[Wisner points to a trajectory that puts virtually all the IARC studies at the high end of the new plot line.]

Foster: “It would be if we accepted those numbers, yes.”

Wisner: “And, in fact, if we did that, a lot of these high-dose groups, they're outside of that range, right?”

Foster: “They would be outside the range, yes.”

Finally, Wisner showed Foster the actual list of numbers that he had then divided to achieve his average of six tumors per 50 mice. It was hard to imagine how anyone could have calculated the numbers to reach an average of six.

Wisner: “Doctor, I'm just going to show you the document again. We just showed it to the jury.  This is the Charles River March 2000 document. Do you see that one?”

Foster: “Yes.”

Wisner: “And I am not good at math. I'll be honest with you. Okay? But when I look at these numbers, you know, to 2, 2, 1, 4, 1, 3, 1—it goes on, and on to the next page, and even when I throw in that one 13 on the next page, how does that average to 6?”

Foster: “Yeah, it's late, and I'm looking at it. And—yeah. When I did my assessment of the data, I used range.”

And thus, Monsanto’s key witness on the animal studies admitted his earlier calculations were all wildly wrong.

Here are key highlights from the Monsanto trial based off of Robert F. Kennedy's daily entries: 

Day 1, July 9: opening statements

Here’s a link to the opening statement for the Plaintiff by Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman:

“This case really is about choice. It's about the right of every single person in this room to make a choice about what chemicals they expose themselves, their family or their children to…If you don’t warn, you don’t give someone the choice, and if someone gets hurt from that, or, God forbid, someone gets cancer, then I believe someone should be held responsible for that.”

Day 2, July 10: Did Monsanto suppress its own research?

On day 2 of the Johnson trial, the jury heard deposition testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Dr. Mark Martens. Johnson’s attorneys asked Martens why Monsanto decided to abandon research conducted in 1999, by Dr. James Parry, an independent toxicologist Monsanto hired as a consultant after deeming him a top expert in his field.

Dr. Parry’s research concluded that glyphosate and the Roundup formulation may cause genetic mutations, a potential precursor to cancer. According to Martens, Monsanto did not allow independent scientists to review Dr. Parry’s research for further study after it was received, nor did the company give Dr. Parry’s research to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Day 3, July 12: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses the tumors in glyphosate animal studies, and the EPA’s initial findings in 1985, that glyphosate is a “possible” human carcinogen

On day 3, Judge Suzanne Ramos denied attorney Brent Wisner’s request that epidemiology/toxicology expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, be permitted to share his opinions before the jury concerning the amount of glyphosate exposure the state of California has determined causes cancer.

Wisner argued that a previous ruling allowed Monsanto witnesses to testify about foreign regulatory decisions to not list glyphosate as carcinogenic, so it did not make sense to deny the plaintiff the opportunity to discuss California’s own regulatory decision to list glyphosate as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer.

Nevertheless, Dr. Portier testified that his analysis of 13 rodent studies on glyphosate, and the findings of  the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) led him to conclude that exposure to glyphosate causes NHL. Portier said:

“If you have multiple tumors of the same type in multiple species, it adds to the strength of causality. By seeing lots of different tumor types hit in the same animal, the more important it is to the human causal.”

Day 4, July 13: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses flaws with U.S. and EU regulatory Evaluations for glyphosate

On day 4, Monsanto counsel, Kirby Griffis, tried to rattle Dr. Christopher Portier during cross-examination, confronting the expert witness with the EPA’s conclusion that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. During testimony, Dr. Portier slammed U.S. and European regulators over their methodology in evaluating glyphosate.

For example, Dr. Portier testified that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) missed 15 tumors in a series of rodent studies on glyphosate because the agency used the wrong methodology. During cross-examination, he said:

“My entire career been about using scientific evidence to make decisions, primarily about the carcinogenicity of compounds, and we’ve worked for years and years to do that appropriately. This was just so amazingly wrong in the way they were doing it.”

Day 5, July 16: fireworks during cross-examination as Monsanto lawyer attempts to discredit expert witness

On day 5, as cross-examination continued Monday, Monsanto counsel Kirby Griffis accused cancer expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, of basing his opinion that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer on lucrative consulting contracts from law firms and not on scientific evidence.

“You said EPA was ‘so amazingly wrong;’ EFSA was ‘so amazingly, astonishingly wrong.’ ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) got one thing right,” Griffis said, attempting to poke holes in Dr. Portier’s prior testimony about U.S. and European regulators’ evaluations of glyphosate.

Undaunted, Dr. Portier responded: “It’s absolutely clear they’re not using [their guidelines] appropriately.”

During redirect, Dr. Portier also pointed out that a reassessment report for glyphosate conducted by a German agency that participated in EFSA’s review of glyphosate, contained verbatim passages written by herbicide manufacturers.

Day 6, July 17: Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson called Monsanto to ask if using Roundup caused his skin rashes, later diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma

On day 6, Monsanto executive Dr. Daniel Goldstein attempted to rebut plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s allegation that he failed to tell him whether exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused him to develop skin rashes over a significant portion of his body.

In his lawsuit, Johnson alleges he developed cancerous lesions on his body after using Roundup between 2012 and 2015, as part of his groundskeeper job, including two instances where he was drenched in the weed killer.

The jury saw video testimony from Dr. Goldstein, who was asked whether he returned calls that Johnson had made to the company in 2014, asking if exposure to Roundup created the widespread lesions all over his body.

Dr. Goldstein testified that he did not recall speaking to Johnson, though an internal Monsanto email shows that he intended to call Johnson.

“It would certainly be helpful to have spoken with him, and I don’t recall whether I did,” Goldstein testified.

Day 7, July 18: Tempers flare as Monsanto lawyer becomes visibly frustrated with cancer expert, Dr. Alfred Neugut

On day 7, oncology and epidemiology expert Dr. Alfred Neugut of Columbia University took the stand and things got a bit heated during his cross-examination. At one point, Monsanto attorney George Lombardi gave the court an inaccurate characterization of a statement Dr. Neugut had made. Dr. Neugut yelled back to Lombardi to stop “misquoting” him.

Another highlight was Dr. Neugut’s dismissal of the Agricultural Health Study, which Monsanto routinely points to as conclusive proof that glyphosate is safe. Like other expert witnesses for the plaintiff, Dr. Neugut told the jury about several key flaws with the study, including the imputation of data to make up for poor follow-up among the study’s subjects, which rendered the study a “throwaway.” Dr. Neugut said:

“You use imputation when you’ve got a screwed-up study with poor follow-up. Unfortunately, this is a case of measurings—with a gold scale, where it turns out the results just don’t turn out to be what they should be because there are so many problems.”

Day 8, July 20: Plaintiffs oncologist testified that exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma”

On day 8, the court heard from Cardinal Health oncologist and physician, Dr. Chadi Nabhan, one of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s medical witnesses. Dr. Nabhan testified that Lee Johnson’s exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.”

One of Monsanto’s points of emphasis during the Johnson trial is how long it takes for cancer symptoms to manifest after exposure to a carcinogenic agent. Lawyers for the agrochemical giant say it takes 20 years, which would eliminate Roundup exposure as the cause of Mr. Johnson’s NHL.

Dr. Nabhan, however, told the jury that cancer symptoms can show in just one month. “There is no agreed-upon latency period with these types of exposures and these types of cancers,” said Nabhan, who specializes in lymphomas. “Some patients can develop the disease early on and some patients can develop it in 20 years.”

Day 9, July 23: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson testifies he “never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm”

On day 9, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and his wife, Araceli, took the stand and gave the jury a heartbreaking glimpse at how their lives have changed since Lee’s cancer diagnosis.

During her testimony, Araceli recalled when Lee first told her about his diagnosis. “I couldn’t believe it. My world just shut down,” she said, adding, “I only cried at nigt... it was very hard.”

In order to make a dent in the family’s rising medical bills, Araceli took a second job working 14-hour days while shuttling her two sons an extra 45 minutes to Napa Valley School District in hopes of providing them better educational opportunities.

When Lee took the stand, he testified in agonizing detail how he tried to hide the pain of his diagnosis from his family. “I’m trying to show my kids an example of how to deal with things and crying is not going to help you,” he said. “But I’m raising two little boys, so I’m teaching them to deal with pain and learn to deal with it and to deal with a situation if it comes to you. And sitting around sorrowful and crying is not going to help.”

Mr. Johnson also made it clear that he never would have used Roundup if he had known it causes cancer.

“I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm,” Mr. Johnson said in court on Monday. “It’s unethical, it’s wrong. People don’t deserve that.”

Day 10, July 24: Secret documents reveal Monsanto’s war on cancer scientists

On day 10, the jury heard video testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Donna Farmer, who leads the chemical company’s deceptively named Product Safety Center.

Getting Farmer to testify proved to be a challenge. When our legal team sent a process server to subpoena her testimony, Farmer was observed fleeing through a backyard fence of her St. Louis home. We had the block staked out and successfully served the summons.

In her deposition, Farmer adamantly denied that her role at Monsanto was to protect Roundup until she was confronted with an internal company document showing that, in fact, her “number one goal is to defend and maintain the global glyphosate or Roundup business.”

Under questioning from attorney Mike Miller, Farmer admitted that her primary concern was regulatory compliance rather than public health, acknowledging that she orchestrated the ghostwriting of articles for supposedly independent scientists who agreed to defend glyphosate.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said.

Day 11 & 12, July 25 & July 26: Disappointing rulings in Monsanto’s favor keeps important evidence from the jury

Judge Bolanos issued a series of rulings on day 11 that favored Monsanto and prohibited plaintiff’s attorneys from presenting key evidence to the jury.

In one ruling, Judge Bolanos held that plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook, could not offer any opinions or descriptions about a collection of Monsanto’s internal studies on Roundup’s health effects that are highly damaging to Monsanto’s case.

We had hoped to show the jury these documents, which involve transparently deceptive statistical machinations designed to cloud the results of Monsanto’s own glyphosate research. One important internal study shows that glyphosate causes cancer in mice. Another internal Monsanto research study detailed higher human skin absorption rates of the herbicide than reported elsewhere.

Day 12 started with more of the same; Judge Bolanos blocked us from mentioning Monsanto’s “TNO dermal absorption” studies, which found far higher rates of glyphosate and Roundup absorption through the skin than previously reported. The afternoon brought some good news, however, as plaintiff’s expert, Dr. William Sawyer, testified that glyphosate alone is “clearly” carcinogenic, and that Monsanto’s practice of adding chemical surfactants “increase and enhance [Roundup’s] carcinogenicity.”

Dr. Sawyer also noted that Lee Johnson’s job as Integrated Pest Manager for the Benicia School District required him to apply Roundup in ways that maximized his exposure. In fact, Dr. Sawyer testified that Lee sprayed more than three times more Roundup per hour than the average individual in Monsanto’s premier safety studies.

Day 13, July 27: Plaintiff’s expert testifies that Roundup uses a potent surfactant that dramatically amplifies toxicity

On day 13, plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook testified that EPA’s focus on glyphosate in isolation is a sham intended to gloss over the more important question of “whether the Roundup formulation itself, not just a single ingredient, is toxic and carcinogenic.”

According to Dr. Benbrook, Monsanto uses a potent surfactant in the Roundup formulated product that dramatically amplifies its toxicity.

The jury also heard videotaped testimony from Steven Gould, Monsanto’s head of west coast sales. In his deposition, Gould acknowledged trading emails with Greg Fernald, a chief marketer for Roundup’s California distributor, Wilbur-Ellis.

Gould complained to Fernald that California school districts were banning the use of Roundup on school grounds.

“It’s hard to understand how against all science and law they can do that—can do this,” Fernald responded. “We are being overrun by liberals and morons, sort of like a zombie movie. So we just have to start taking them out one at a time, starting with the elections next year.”

Unfortunately, since we are before a California jury, Judge Bolanos had us redact out all reference to California, but the video was still effective.

Day 14, July 30: Monsanto Herbicide Expert Has Bad Day in Court

On day 14, Monsanto’s attorneys filed an obligatory motion to nonsuit the case—a Hail Mary asking the judge to dismiss our claims on grounds that Plaintiff’s counsel had not produced sufficient evidence to bring the case before the jury.

The motion was denied. Unfortunately, that was about the only motion we won, as Judge Bolanos continued her pattern of favorable rulings for Monsanto.

Monsanto called UC Davis professor Kassim Al-Khatib to testify on “weed science” and herbicide use. Al-Khatib has a long history as a paid expert for Monsanto on various cases. Under usual circumstances, payment in exchange for “expert” testimony would be a rich and permissible subject for impeachment because Al-Khatib has incentive to tailor his testimony to keep his gig as a paid Monsanto expert.

A jury should be able to hear this evidence of potential bias. Yet Judge Bolanos ruled we could impeach Al-Khatib only about the money he received for this particular case. The amounts were still substantial—invoices revealed that Monsanto paid professor Al-Khatib $70,000 for 200 hours of work.

When Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman attorney Brent Wisner asked what he did during those 200 hours, Al-Khatib testified that he read one of Johnson’s three depositions and his trial testimony, and reviewed the photograph of Johnson’s sprayer.

Day 15, July 31: Monsanto Pays Harvard Wizard $100k to Perform Statistical Magic Show for Jury

On day 15, Monsanto expert witness, Dr. Lorelei Mucci, took the stand. Dr. Mucci is a cancer epidemiologist and associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

Despite its impressive name, the HSPH has earned a dubious reputation for taking rich contributions from polluters in exchange for producing scientific “research” that fortifies corporate profit-taking. Big Tobacco, the chemical industry, Detroit automakers, corporate food processors, and industrial meat and grain barons have all turned to HSPH for corporate-friendly science anointed with the Harvard name.

Under cross examination, Mucci admitted that Monsanto paid her $100,000 for her testimony. It was money well spent, as Dr. Mucci met questions from attorney Brent Wisner with a cacophony of smokescreen, jargon-heavy double-talk, at one point even disputing that she was Monsanto’s expert.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a longtime environmental advocate and author of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family. He is co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertKennedyJr. Like him on Facebook.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

#MonsantoTrial

‘Day of Reckoning:’ Jury Deliberations Begin in Monsanto Trial Following Dramatic Closing Arguments

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-08-08 16:11
August 8, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonGenetic Engineering, Health Issues monsanto_trial_jury.jpg

Jurors will begin deliberations today in the case of Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co. following a heated showdown of closing arguments from attorneys on both sides. The deliberations are expected to last one to two days.

The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma four years ago, claims Monsanto hid evidence that the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, caused his cancer. The case is the first of hundreds of similar lawsuits to go to trial, under a California law that expedites legal cases filed by terminally ill plaintiffs.

Reports from inside the courtroom highlight the difficulty of being a juror in this case, where attorneys for both the plaintiff and Monsanto insist that science is on their side.

“So much science, so much spin—who will the jurors believe?” tweeted Carey Gillam, research director of U.S. Right to Know and author of “Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.”

Gotta be hard to be a juror in #Rounduptrial - after scathing closing citing science supporting plaintiff's case, @MonsantoCo defense lawyer brings equal heat, says @EPA scientific findings right and @IARCWHO is wrong; So much science, so much spin - who will the jurors believe?

— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018

In closing arguments, which followed four weeks of testimony, an attorney for plaintiff Johnson accused Monsanto of denying Johnson the right to have a choice about his health and the health of his children when he used Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

“Today is their day of reckoning!” said Johnson’s attorney.

Closing arguments  in #Monsanto trial going on now. Atty. representing Dewayne (Lee) Johnson, Bay Area man dying of cancer, comes out swinging: "Monsanto denied Mr. Johnson *choice about his health" and health of children where he used Round Up."Today is their day of reckoning!"

— Sam Brock (@SamNBCBayArea) August 7, 2018

“My client deserves the truth,” Johnson’s attorney Brent Wisner told the jurors. “The evidence is actually overwhelming. Other than hiding behind the EPA, Monsanto has quite literally no defense.”

"My client deserves the truth," says Lee Johnson attorney Brent Wisner to jurors in #Rounduptrial "The evidence is actually overwhelming. Other than hiding behind the @EPA @MonsantoCo has quite literally no defense." And boom, it's done. Time for jury to deliberate.

— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018

Attorneys for Johnson suggested that Monsanto failed to bring a single human being from the company to look the jurors in the eyes and state what they did, for fear of committing perjury.

In a blistering closing that prompted objections from Monsanto, plaintiff's lawyer notes @MonsantoCo "didn’t bring a single human being from the company to look into your eyes and say why they did what they did.”
He speculates they feared committing perjury. #Rounduptrial

— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018

Johnson’s attorneys asked the jury to penalize Monsanto for $373 million in damages, or the interest accrued on their cash on-hand in the years since Johnson developed cancer. “That’s a number that makes people change their ways,” said one of Johnson’s attorneys.

And stakes just elevated after attorney for Lee Johnson asks jury to penalize #Monsanto *$373 million* in damages, or interest of their cash on-hand in yrs. since Johnson developed cancer. “That’s a number that makes people change their way.” #MonsantoTrial

— Sam Brock (@SamNBCBayArea) August 7, 2018

The amount includes $2.53 million in damages for lost wages, medical expenses and other costs; $37 million in damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress; and $1 million for each year of Johnson’s life expectancy.

Total sought for cancer victim Lee Johnson: $2.25 million in economic damages; $37 million in non-economic; and $373 million in punitive. "Your verdict will be heard around the world," @baumhedlund attorney tells jury in @MonsantoCo #Rounduptrial https://t.co/6dnIkMLrpk

— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018

“I wish we didn’t have to do this,” atty Brent Wisner lays out compensatory & non-economic damages (physical pain, suffering, loss of quality of life) for Lee Johnson, dying of cancer:
$39, 253,209.23. Not just abt Johnson but “discouraging behavior in future.” #MonsantoTrial

— Sam Brock (@SamNBCBayArea) August 7, 2018

In closing arguments attorneys for Monsanto tried to discredit the expert witnesses who testified on Johnson’s behalf, insisting that the “real experts” in the trial are those who side with Monsanto and say glyphosate does not cause cancer.

Monsanto attorneys also told the jury that the cause of plaintiff Johnson’s cancer is unknown.

In closing, @MonsantoCo attorney tells jury the "real experts" in #Rounduptrial are those who side with the company and say glyphosate doesn't cause cancer. Takes particular swipes at plaintiffs expert Dr. Portier as a "partisan," says jury should consider his "credibility."

— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018

Lawyer for @MonsantoCo tells jury in #Rounduptrial "nobody knows" what causes type of cancer plaintiff Lee Johnson has

— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018

In closing argument of #Rounduptrial @MonsantoCo attorney tells jury that epidemiology shows "overwhelming" evidence that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer; should not let plaintiff's attorney persuade them, says "the facts are what should lead you in this case"

— carey gillam (@careygillam) August 7, 2018

The landmark case has kept Monsanto and its bad reputation in the public eye as the company grows increasingly desperate to defend its flagship Roundup weedkiller from human and environmental health concerns.

On August 7, a federal judge in Brazil suspended the use of glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. The judge ruled that new products containing glyphosate could not be registered in the country, and any existing registrations would be suspended for the next 30 days pending a toxicology review by the government.

The move is expected to hit Monsanto where it hurts. Monsanto is deeply invested in Brazil where its glyphosate-resistant genetically modified soybeans are planted on a large-scale. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of soybeans.

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

#MonsantoTrial

TAKE ACTION: Tell the Organic Trade Association: Cargill and BASF Don't Belong!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-08-08 16:00
Category: All About Organics, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) says it’s dedicated to promoting and protecting organics. But the organization, dubbed the Organic “Traitors” Association after it betrayed the consumer-led GMO labeling movement, is moving farther away from its organic roots—and closer to corporate control.

How do we know? The OTA recently admitted two new members: chemical giant BASF, a dicamba manufacturer and leader in genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and Cargill, one of the largest factory farm meat corporations in the world, and a big supporter of GMO crops.

The OTA states that its goal is to work in conjunction with organic businesses “to encourage and protect organic farming practices, and to share messages about the positive environmental and nutritional attributes of organic products with consumers, the media and policymakers.”

So, why is OTA partnering with BASF and Cargill?

OTA’s cozy new partnership with corporate entities like BASF and Cargill—two of the worst offenders of human and environmental health—is the latest in an ongoing (and deliberate) attack on the integrity of organics.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the Organic Trade Association: Cargill and BASF don't belong!Read more

Tell Congress: Stop Monsanto’s Toxic Tricks!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-08-08 15:44
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

Would you like your local government to ban Monsanto’s carcinogenic Roundup herbicide?

Your local government has had that power since 1991, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal law regulating the manufacture, sale and use of pesticides permitted local governments to impose more stringent regulations of their own.

Ever since, Monsanto has been pressuring Congress to strip local governments of that right.

Monsanto wants Congress to strip your community of the right to ban toxic pesticides.

Only Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Utah and Vermont still let local governments regulate pesticides. But that’s seven states too many for Monsanto. Plus, the Biotech Bully is worried that number could grow if more states were to pass laws restoring local control over pesticides.

That’s why getting Congress to include Monsanto’s toxic trick in the Farm Bill is so important to Monsanto.

We have to fight back!

Contact your Congress members. Let them know that legislation that takes away local rights to regulate pesticides is undemocratic and dangerous!

TAKE ACTION: Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to get Monsanto’s toxic tricks out of the Farm Bill. Protect local rights to ban dangerous pesticides!Read more

Monsanto Pays Harvard Wizard $100k to Perform Statistical Magic Show for Jury

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-08-06 15:36
August 6, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kevin BaumGenetic Engineering, Health Issues monsanto_roundup_cancer_trial_15.jpg

Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company is the first Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper, alleges exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Johnson is one of thousands of plaintiffs to file suit against Monsanto in state court over the alleged link between Roundup and NHL. More than 450 other lawsuits filed in federal court are currently pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Since the start of the Johnson trial, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, has provided running commentary of the events in court each day. Here's his post for Aug. 2 on the Monsanto trial:

Monsanto’s six week trial which began June 22 with jury selection in San Francisco Superior Court has been a parade of mostly dark days for the chemical titan.

Tuesday, July 31, was a relatively bright oasis for Monsanto and by far its best showing so far in the dramatic Johnson vs. Monsanto trial. Monsanto’s attorneys called Dr. Lorelei Mucci, a cancer epidemiologist and associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

Despite its impressive name, the HSPH has earned an unsavory reputation for taking rich contributions from polluters in exchange for producing scientific “research” that fortifies corporate profit-taking. Big Tobacco, the chemical industry, Detroit automakers, corporate food processors, and industrial meat and grain barons have all turned to HSPH for corporate-friendly science anointed with the imprimatur of the Harvard name.

HSPH’s iconic founder, Fredrick Stare, proudly bore the sobriquet “Mr. Sugar” for his adamant defense of a sugar-only diet. Stare’s sweet tooth garnered HSPH millions of dollars in research grants from Kellogg’s, General Mills and Coca-Cola. In exchange for soda industry lucre, Stare obligingly provided the scientific conclusion that a cold Coke was “a healthy between-meals snack.”

Stare made his bones with cigarette makers in the 1980s as chairman of a notorious tobacco industry front group, American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Stare took millions to deploy the Harvard name in defense of the cigarette czars. Stare’s partner at HSPH and his former student, Elizabeth Whelan who served as the CEO of ACSH, wrote a book, “Panic in the Pantry” with the tagline “Eat your additives.” The title was not ironic.

HSPH’s romance with dark industries is no rare historical artifact. Since 2012, the HSPH (now the Chang School) has pursued and received money from Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, Bayer Crop Science (Monsanto’s new owner) ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers, Phillip Morris, Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Just last year, HSPH tarred itself with yet another national scandal by ginning up an eyebrow-raising study exonerating alcohol from adverse health effects in exchange for $100 million from alcohol beverage producers.

Under questioning by my colleague, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law, Mucci acknowledged that Monsanto paid her $100,000 for her testimony. It was money well spent. Mucci was a great defense witness. Charming and well spoken, she testified with the confidence and cool conviction of a veteran professor. But her flowing, eloquent testimony on direct examination contrasted starkly with her hedging, halting, combative and evasive responses on cross. She filibustered, stalled and dissembled as our time dwindled. A feisty polemicist, she nevertheless repeatedly claimed difficulty understanding Wisner’s simple questions. “Yes” or “no” questions made her recoil like a cat from water. Each attempt by Wisner to ask such a question launched her on frolicking detours and philosophical flights of fancy. She treated the jury to a cacophony of smokescreen, jargon-heavy double-talk, and dissembling that were nonetheless mesmerizing on account of her charm. She contested everything and conceded nothing. She even disputed that she was Monsanto’s expert:

Wisner: “When you decided to take on Monsanto as a client, had you read this document yet?”

Mucci: “I'm sorry. I don't think I took Monsanto on as a client.”

Wisner: “Well, they're paying you, right?”

Mucci: “I think they took me on as a client, just to clarify.”

Wisner: “Oh, okay. So you work for Monsanto now?”

Mucci: “No. I'm working—I'm providing expert testimony on behalf of this case.”

Epidemiological studies are always the most hotly debated genre because they are notoriously easy to fix. “Statistics don’t lie,” Twain’s saying goes, “but statisticians do.” My colleague, David Dickens of the Miller Firm, put it a different way: “Statistics are like prisoners; If you torture them, they will say anything you want.”

Corporate epidemiologists use an arsenal of statistical gimmicks to weaken statistical signals and flatten graph lines. Epidemiological studies are particularly simple to rig, when, as here, they are assessing rare cancers or vulnerable subgroups. Simply eliminating one or two sick individuals from the cohort can vanish a cancer signal altogether.

To achieve this goal, Mucci used the old con of correcting for so-called “proxy bias.” Here’s how the flimflam works: The six epidemiological studies that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) relied upon tracked populations exposed to Roundup and counted those individuals who received cancer diagnoses. When a cancer patient died of the disease, the researchers obtained their information from family members and doctors—the so-called “proxies.” Mucci maintained that “proxy data” is inherently biased and therefore unreliable. When she experimented with removing those individuals (dead cancer patients) altogether from the study, the cancer “signal” predictably disappeared. Correcting for “proxy bias” is a reliable way of dampening a signal since it always gets rid of the people most affected by the toxin—dead people that is! Using this gimmick on Monsanto’s behalf, she was able to report that there was no association with cancer in the primary epidemiological studies relied upon by IARC.

IARC based its conclusion that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen on a totality of the published, peer-reviewed scientific evidence—this evidence included animal and human epidemiological studies. IARC looked at six human epidemiological studies. All of them showed signals indicating an association between glyphosate and cancer. Two of them showed statistically significant increased non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with increased use—a hallmark indication of a chemical causing cancer. Wisner got Mucci to concede she did not include these statistically significant doubling-of-the-risk rates in her presentation to the jury.

Another act of chicanery, she omitted the similar statistically significant dose relative response results reported by researchers from the North American Pooled Project (NAPP)—the only study she cited to dismiss the case control studies IARC and our experts relied upon. After pointing out this deceptive omission, Wisner showed the jury that Mucci also neglected to mention that the NAPP authors’ draft manuscript concludes that the NAPP data supported IARC’s conclusions!

Our witness, Dr. Portier, earlier testified that since nearly six of those human epidemiology studies relied upon by IARC showed an elevated cancer risk, the cumulative weight argued even more persuasively for carcinogenicity. IARC also reviewed multiple animal studies, which showed that glyphosate caused cancer in mice. Based on both animal and epidemiological studies, IARC deemed the evidence adequate to conclude that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.” Mucci admitted she had never looked at the animal studies.

Wisner: “Now, you didn't review any of the toxicology data in this case, right?”

Mucci: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “And you didn't review any of the animal data or mechanistic data, right?”

Mucci: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “So you didn't consider the biological plausibility of glyphosate being a carcinogen, right?

Mucci: “I reviewed it when I was reading the epidemiologic studies, so I'm aware of the knowledge, but I did not consider those in reviewing the epidemiology studies.”

The last answer of course was gibberish delivered with such earnest and duende that even I found myself wanting it to make sense.

In any case, she added, the low relative risk (1.2-3.04) found in the six epidemiological studies reviewed by IARC was far too weak to conclude that glyphosate is carcinogenic. On this point, Wisner confronted Mucci with an epidemiological study she herself had authored before she took Monsanto’s money. In that publication, she concluded that a single study showing a 1.25 elevated risk was alone enough to determine whether maternal smoking causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. With Monsanto’s money in her pocket, the positive epidemiology, animal and mechanism study results of similar or greater power were suddenly insufficient.

Its unquestionable that epidemiology can show correlation but can prove neither causation or safety. But Mucci nevertheless claimed that her cooked and “corrected studies” showed that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. But she took it a step further. She swore adamantly that carcinogenicity could not be established without epidemiological studies. To rebut this assertion, Wisner showed her a section of her own book with graphs listing all known carcinogens and the studies that established their carcinogenicity. Many of the compounds listed as carcinogens by Mucci in her book showed no epidemiological data to support the cancer listing, only animal studies. Wisner’s questions on this point launched Mucci on another of her excited disputations. She indicated in her dissembling shuck and jive, that the list that she published in her own textbook was invalid because she had gotten the information from the IARC, an agency she characterized in her “Textbook of Cancer Epidemiology” as “the benchmark” cancer authority.

Wisner: “You can still determine whether or not something causes cancer without epidemiology, right?”

Mucci: “I don't think that's true.”

Wisner: “Okay. You wrote a book about cancer epidemiology, right?”

Mucci: “Yes, I have.”

Wisner: “That's your textbook, Doctor?”

Mucci: “Yes, it is.”

Wisner: “It reads, ‘the classification of an agent as a Group 1 carcinogen in the International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, a Monograph program, can be used as a benchmark for the identification of human carcinogens.’ Do you see that?”

Mucci: “Yes.”

Showing her now the graph for her book listing carcinogens and the supporting studies he continues his questioning:

Wisner: “And here it says, ‘Group 1 agents with less than sufficient evidence in humans, but with strong mechanistic evidence.’ Do you see that?”

Mucci: “Yes.”

Wisner: “And you list all these different known human carcinogens that have inadequate or limited data, correct?”

Mucci: “Yes...”

Wisner: “So then you agree then that it's possible to determine a carcinogen with inadequate or even limited epidemiology?”

Faced with this yes-or-no question she embarked on another confusing meander during which she seemed to disavow IARC, an authority she refers to as “the benchmark” for cancer science that she cites nearly 500 times in her book:

Mucci: “Well, it depends. What I'm trying to say is that there are certain organizations, such as IARC, that use certain criteria, and there's other agencies that would use other criteria and they would weight the human data potentially differently. That's why I'm trying to be clear that it really depends on what body is reviewing the evidence.”

(The “other agency” she is referring to here is U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an agency that we now know Monsanto controlled through its puppet, Jess Rowland.)

Wisner: “So we can play around with words here, but if IARC can serve as a ‘benchmark’ and IARC has determined things to be known carcinogens with inadequate or limited epidemiology, then you would agree that it's possible to determine a carcinogen with limited or inadequate epidemiology? And if you look at the next section, it says IARC, doesn't it?”

Mucci: “Yes, it does.”

Wisner: “It doesn't discuss any other agency or anything, does it?”

Mucci: “No, it doesn't.”

Wisner: “Okay. You would agree IARC is a very prestigious organization?”

Mucci: “It is an organization that is important in cancer—dealing with cancer, yes.”

Wisner: “In fact, isn't it true if you run a search on your book for IARC, you'll find 475 references to it?”

Mucci: “Yes.”

Wisner: “If you do the same search for EPA, you get two?”

Mucci: “It might be more than that [It isn’t!], but yes, that's correct.”

Wisner: “Okay. And that's because in the world of epidemiology, the single greatest arbiter of cancer risk is IARC?”

Mucci: “No.”

And here she launched into another of her signature incomprehensible smokescreens.

Mucci: “Actually—but also I'd like to comment on another part of the textbook in which we comment that they should not be confused with the establishment of causation based on scientific considerations alone. I think that is an important comment that we also mentioned in the book.”

Wisner: “Doctor, my question had nothing to do with that.”

Mucci: “Yes, I know.”

Wisner was so amused by this admission that he turned to the jury and addressed Mucci theatrically, begging, alas, for one straight answer:

Wisner: “Let me ask the question again so I can at least have a dramatic ending!”

The jurors laughed as Wisner took his seat sporting a broad smile.

Here are key highlights from the Monsanto trial based off of Robert F. Kennedy's daily entries: 

Day 1, July 9: opening statements

Here’s a link to the opening statement for the Plaintiff by Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman:

“This case really is about choice. It's about the right of every single person in this room to make a choice about what chemicals they expose themselves, their family or their children to…If you don’t warn, you don’t give someone the choice, and if someone gets hurt from that, or, God forbid, someone gets cancer, then I believe someone should be held responsible for that.”

Day 2, July 10: Did Monsanto suppress its own research?

On day 2 of the Johnson trial, the jury heard deposition testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Dr. Mark Martens. Johnson’s attorneys asked Martens why Monsanto decided to abandon research conducted in 1999, by Dr. James Parry, an independent toxicologist Monsanto hired as a consultant after deeming him a top expert in his field.

Dr. Parry’s research concluded that glyphosate and the Roundup formulation may cause genetic mutations, a potential precursor to cancer. According to Martens, Monsanto did not allow independent scientists to review Dr. Parry’s research for further study after it was received, nor did the company give Dr. Parry’s research to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Day 3, July 12: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses the tumors in glyphosate animal studies, and the EPA’s initial findings in 1985, that glyphosate is a “possible” human carcinogen

On day 3, Judge Suzanne Ramos denied attorney Brent Wisner’s request that epidemiology/toxicology expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, be permitted to share his opinions before the jury concerning the amount of glyphosate exposure the state of California has determined causes cancer.

Wisner argued that a previous ruling allowed Monsanto witnesses to testify about foreign regulatory decisions to not list glyphosate as carcinogenic, so it did not make sense to deny the plaintiff the opportunity to discuss California’s own regulatory decision to list glyphosate as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer.

Nevertheless, Dr. Portier testified that his analysis of 13 rodent studies on glyphosate, and the findings of  the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) led him to conclude that exposure to glyphosate causes NHL. Portier said:

“If you have multiple tumors of the same type in multiple species, it adds to the strength of causality. By seeing lots of different tumor types hit in the same animal, the more important it is to the human causal.”

Day 4, July 13: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses flaws with U.S. and EU regulatory Evaluations for glyphosate

On day 4, Monsanto counsel, Kirby Griffis, tried to rattle Dr. Christopher Portier during cross-examination, confronting the expert witness with the EPA’s conclusion that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. During testimony, Dr. Portier slammed U.S. and European regulators over their methodology in evaluating glyphosate.

For example, Dr. Portier testified that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) missed 15 tumors in a series of rodent studies on glyphosate because the agency used the wrong methodology. During cross-examination, he said:

“My entire career been about using scientific evidence to make decisions, primarily about the carcinogenicity of compounds, and we’ve worked for years and years to do that appropriately. This was just so amazingly wrong in the way they were doing it.”

Day 5, July 16: fireworks during cross-examination as Monsanto lawyer attempts to discredit expert witness

On day 5, as cross-examination continued Monday, Monsanto counsel Kirby Griffis accused cancer expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, of basing his opinion that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer on lucrative consulting contracts from law firms and not on scientific evidence.

“You said EPA was ‘so amazingly wrong;’ EFSA was ‘so amazingly, astonishingly wrong.’ ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) got one thing right,” Griffis said, attempting to poke holes in Dr. Portier’s prior testimony about U.S. and European regulators’ evaluations of glyphosate.

Undaunted, Dr. Portier responded: “It’s absolutely clear they’re not using [their guidelines] appropriately.”

During redirect, Dr. Portier also pointed out that a reassessment report for glyphosate conducted by a German agency that participated in EFSA’s review of glyphosate, contained verbatim passages written by herbicide manufacturers.

Day 6, July 17: Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson called Monsanto to ask if using Roundup caused his skin rashes, later diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma

On day 6, Monsanto executive Dr. Daniel Goldstein attempted to rebut plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s allegation that he failed to tell him whether exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused him to develop skin rashes over a significant portion of his body.

In his lawsuit, Johnson alleges he developed cancerous lesions on his body after using Roundup between 2012 and 2015, as part of his groundskeeper job, including two instances where he was drenched in the weed killer.

The jury saw video testimony from Dr. Goldstein, who was asked whether he returned calls that Johnson had made to the company in 2014, asking if exposure to Roundup created the widespread lesions all over his body.

Dr. Goldstein testified that he did not recall speaking to Johnson, though an internal Monsanto email shows that he intended to call Johnson.

“It would certainly be helpful to have spoken with him, and I don’t recall whether I did,” Goldstein testified.

Day 7, July 18: Tempers flare as Monsanto lawyer becomes visibly frustrated with cancer expert, Dr. Alfred Neugut

On day 7, oncology and epidemiology expert Dr. Alfred Neugut of Columbia University took the stand and things got a bit heated during his cross-examination. At one point, Monsanto attorney George Lombardi gave the court an inaccurate characterization of a statement Dr. Neugut had made. Dr. Neugut yelled back to Lombardi to stop “misquoting” him.

Another highlight was Dr. Neugut’s dismissal of the Agricultural Health Study, which Monsanto routinely points to as conclusive proof that glyphosate is safe. Like other expert witnesses for the plaintiff, Dr. Neugut told the jury about several key flaws with the study, including the imputation of data to make up for poor follow-up among the study’s subjects, which rendered the study a “throwaway.” Dr. Neugut said:

“You use imputation when you’ve got a screwed-up study with poor follow-up. Unfortunately, this is a case of measurings—with a gold scale, where it turns out the results just don’t turn out to be what they should be because there are so many problems.”

Day 8, July 20: Plaintiffs oncologist testified that exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma”

On day 8, the court heard from Cardinal Health oncologist and physician, Dr. Chadi Nabhan, one of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s medical witnesses. Dr. Nabhan testified that Lee Johnson’s exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.”

One of Monsanto’s points of emphasis during the Johnson trial is how long it takes for cancer symptoms to manifest after exposure to a carcinogenic agent. Lawyers for the agrochemical giant say it takes 20 years, which would eliminate Roundup exposure as the cause of Mr. Johnson’s NHL.

Dr. Nabhan, however, told the jury that cancer symptoms can show in just one month. “There is no agreed-upon latency period with these types of exposures and these types of cancers,” said Nabhan, who specializes in lymphomas. “Some patients can develop the disease early on and some patients can develop it in 20 years.”

Day 9, July 23: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson testifies he “never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm”

On day 9, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and his wife, Araceli, took the stand and gave the jury a heartbreaking glimpse at how their lives have changed since Lee’s cancer diagnosis.

During her testimony, Araceli recalled when Lee first told her about his diagnosis. “I couldn’t believe it. My world just shut down,” she said, adding, “I only cried at nigt... it was very hard.”

In order to make a dent in the family’s rising medical bills, Araceli took a second job working 14-hour days while shuttling her two sons an extra 45 minutes to Napa Valley School District in hopes of providing them better educational opportunities.

When Lee took the stand, he testified in agonizing detail how he tried to hide the pain of his diagnosis from his family. “I’m trying to show my kids an example of how to deal with things and crying is not going to help you,” he said. “But I’m raising two little boys, so I’m teaching them to deal with pain and learn to deal with it and to deal with a situation if it comes to you. And sitting around sorrowful and crying is not going to help.”

Mr. Johnson also made it clear that he never would have used Roundup if he had known it causes cancer.

“I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm,” Mr. Johnson said in court on Monday. “It’s unethical, it’s wrong. People don’t deserve that.”

Day 10, July 24: Secret documents reveal Monsanto’s war on cancer scientists

On day 10, the jury heard video testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Donna Farmer, who leads the chemical company’s deceptively named Product Safety Center.

Getting Farmer to testify proved to be a challenge. When our legal team sent a process server to subpoena her testimony, Farmer was observed fleeing through a backyard fence of her St. Louis home. We had the block staked out and successfully served the summons.

In her deposition, Farmer adamantly denied that her role at Monsanto was to protect Roundup until she was confronted with an internal company document showing that, in fact, her “number one goal is to defend and maintain the global glyphosate or Roundup business.”

Under questioning from attorney Mike Miller, Farmer admitted that her primary concern was regulatory compliance rather than public health, acknowledging that she orchestrated the ghostwriting of articles for supposedly independent scientists who agreed to defend glyphosate.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said.

Day 11 & 12, July 25 & July 26: Disappointing rulings in Monsanto’s favor keeps important evidence from the jury

Judge Bolanos issued a series of rulings on Day 11 that favored Monsanto and prohibited plaintiff’s attorneys from presenting key evidence to the jury.

In one ruling, Judge Bolanos held that plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook, could not offer any opinions or descriptions about a collection of Monsanto’s internal studies on Roundup’s health effects that are highly damaging to Monsanto’s case.

We had hoped to show the jury these documents, which involve transparently deceptive statistical machinations designed to cloud the results of Monsanto’s own glyphosate research. One important internal study shows that glyphosate causes cancer in mice. Another internal Monsanto research study detailed higher human skin absorption rates of the herbicide than reported elsewhere.

Day 12 started with more of the same; Judge Bolanos blocked us from mentioning Monsanto’s “TNO dermal absorption” studies, which found far higher rates of glyphosate and Roundup absorption through the skin than previously reported. The afternoon brought some good news, however, as plaintiff’s expert, Dr. William Sawyer, testified that glyphosate alone is “clearly” carcinogenic, and that Monsanto’s practice of adding chemical surfactants “increase and enhance [Roundup’s] carcinogenicity.”

Dr. Sawyer also noted that Lee Johnson’s job as Integrated Pest Manager for the Benicia School District required him to apply Roundup in ways that maximized his exposure. In fact, Dr. Sawyer testified that Lee sprayed more than three times more Roundup per hour than the average individual in Monsanto’s premier safety studies.

Day 13, July 27: Plaintiff’s expert testifies that Roundup uses a potent surfactant that dramatically amplifies toxicity

On Day 13, plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook testified that EPA’s focus on glyphosate in isolation is a sham intended to gloss over the more important question of “whether the Roundup formulation itself, not just a single ingredient, is toxic and carcinogenic.”

According to Dr. Benbrook, Monsanto uses a potent surfactant in the Roundup formulated product that dramatically amplifies its toxicity.

The jury also heard videotaped testimony from Steven Gould, Monsanto’s head of west coast sales. In his deposition, Gould acknowledged trading emails with Greg Fernald, a chief marketer for Roundup’s California distributor, Wilbur-Ellis.

Gould complained to Fernald that California school districts were banning the use of Roundup on school grounds.

“It’s hard to understand how against all science and law they can do that—can do this,” Fernald responded. “We are being overrun by liberals and morons, sort of like a zombie movie. So we just have to start taking them out one at a time, starting with the elections next year.”

Unfortunately, since we are before a California jury, Judge Bolanos had us redact out all reference to California, but the video was still effective.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a longtime environmental advocate and author of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family. He is co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertKennedyJr. Like him on Facebook.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

#MonsantoTrial

In 'Disastrous Wreck for Consumers and the Planet,' Trump EPA Moves to Gut Clean Car Standards

Organic consumers - Sat, 2018-08-04 16:49
August 2, 2018Common DreamsJake JohnsonEnvironment & Climate, Politics & Globalization cars.png

"Instead of putting American families first, the Trump administration is once again doing the bidding of corporations and their lobbyists."

President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Transportation Department on Wednesday formally unveiled their long-anticipated plan to gut Obama-era fuel efficiency standards, a regulatory rollback environmentalists quickly denounced as "a disastrous wreck for consumers and the planet."

"We remember the thick smog that used to choke our cities and we refuse to return to those times," Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort said in a statement on Thursday responding to the Trump administration's proposal, which would freeze rules requiring automakers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles. "Everyone who breathes should be worried about the tailpipe pollution Trump's administration wants to unleash."

In addition to rolling back national clean car standards, the Trump administration's new proposal would also revoke the power of states—most prominently California—to establish their own more stringent fuel efficiency rules.

As a whole, the EPA's plan is the regulatory "equivalent of a 100-car pileup," argued Public Citizen's Robert Weissman.

"This proposal puts the Trump administration on a collision course with California and the supermajority of Americans who want more fuel-efficient vehicles," Weissman added. "Americans understand and demand the twin benefits of lower gasoline bills and reduced carbon pollution. The only good news is that the administration’s course will fail—in the courts, in the political realm, and the marketplace."

"By 2030," Cort of Earthjustice added, "the pollution equivalent of this rollback will be like firing up 30 coal power plants. It's a boon for big oil that ordinary Americans will pay for with their health and their wallets."

Almost immediately after the Trump administration formally released its plan to gut the nation's fuel efficiency standards, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra denounced the proposal as a "brazen attack, no matter how it is cloaked, on our nation's clean car standards," and vowed to continue challenging Trump's deregulatory agenda in court.

"The California Department of Justice will use every legal tool at its disposal to defend today's national standards and reaffirm the facts and science behind them," Becerra said in a statement. "Our nation's clean car standards save consumers thousands of dollars, protect our families' health, and ensure that we continue tackling climate change, the most important global environmental issue of our time. We are ready to do what is necessary to hold this administration accountable."

Now that the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, it is open for public comment until Oct. 2. A final version of the rule is expected to be released before the end of the year.

Leave a comment on the Trump administration's plan here.

Posted with permission from Common Dreams.

Neil Young and Daryl Hannah at Monsanto Roundup Trial

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-08-03 17:01
August 3, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.Genetic Engineering, Health Issues neil_young_daryl_hannah_monsanto.jpg Daryl Hannah and Neil Young outside the courthouse in San Francisco where the landmark Monsanto Roundup trial is taking place.

Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company is the first Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper, alleges exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Johnson is one of thousands of plaintiffs to file suit against Monsanto in state court over the alleged link between Roundup and NHL. More than 450 other lawsuits filed in federal court are currently pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Since the start of the Johnson trial, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, has provided running commentary of the events in court each day. Here's his post for Aug. 3 on the Monsanto trial:

Fifty years ago, in their popular hit “Chicago,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young asked Americans to take notice of a federal courtroom in the Windy City, where a black political activist sat bound, gagged and shackled to a chair in a legal drama where America’s justice system, values and character seemed to all be on trial.

Today, the most outspoken member of that band, Neil Young, visited another American courtroom. This one in San Francisco, where the essential values and future of our country once again are on trial. Young and his fellow activist Daryl Hannah attended the trial of Dewayne Lee Johnson, a young black man who is dying of a debilitating and agonizing form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that he says he contracted from contact with the ubiquitous weed killer Roundup.

Johnson’s case is the speartip of a new American rebellion. It marks the first jury trial of similar legal claims already filed by more than 5,000 Americans against Roundup’s manufacturer Monsanto (now owned by the German chemical giant Bayer)!

“At Bayer’s Monsanto, financial interests are placed over the health of fellow human beings and vital life support systems,” Young and Hannah told me. “We are here for justice, in support of Dewayne Johnson and the many children who played on those same school grounds where he worked.”

Neil Young and Daryl Hannah at the courthouse getting ready to go into the courtroom to support of Dewayne Johnson.

 

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Daryl Hannah, Neil Young and Michael Baum outside the courthouse where the Monsanto Roundup trial is taking place.

 

Monsanto has, to date, easily fended off every challenge to its global assault on farmers, food and public health with the same ease—and using the same tactics—that Big Tobacco pioneered more than 60 years ago, shielding its own lethal product that was killing 1 in every 5 of its customers who used it as directed.

Americans who are thoughtful about justice, democracy, healthy food and wholesome communities hope that Johnson’s trial is the long-awaited reckoning for a company with a business model that commoditizes people and landscapes. Many around the globe believe Monsanto poses an existential threat to everything that decent people value.

Hannah and Young came to San Francisco to see Monsanto face an American jury in a case that puts both the company and our justice system on trial. Young and Hannah have spent their long careers as artists and activists fighting for healthy food, farms and wholesome safe communities. Monsanto is arguably the biggest threat to all those things. This case finally gives us hope for justice for the many people this company has harmed.

Young has been a persistent thorn in the side of Monsanto. In 2015, he released “The Monsanto Years,” an album he recorded with the band, “The Promise of the Real,” fronted by Lukas and Micah Nelson, the sons of Willie, another famous farm advocate. The album sold nearly 100,000 copies in the U.S. in the first week and debuted at no. 21 on the Billboard Top 200.

Coterminous with the album’s release, Young premiered “Seeding Fear,” a documentary he co-produced that examines the repercussions of a lawsuit Monsanto filed against Alabama farmer, Michael White, over GMO seed patent infringement. White, a fourth-generation farmer, chronicles how Monsanto bullied farmers to bend to its will.

“It is a story that takes 10 minutes of your time to see,” Young said of the documentary. “It is a simple human one, telling the heartbreaking story of one man who fought the corporate behemoth Monsanto, and it illustrates why I was moved to write ‘The Monsanto Years.’”

In 2014, Young teamed up with Daryl Hannah to lead a march by the “Cowboy and Indian” alliance to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Hannah, a longtime activist and environmental advocate, is executive producer of the 2012 documentary, “Greedy Lying Bastards,” a scathing critique on the climate change misinformation campaign waged by the oil industry and funded by think tanks.

Here are key highlights from the Monsanto trial based off of Robert F. Kennedy's daily entries: 

Day 1, July 9: opening statements

Here’s a link to the opening statement for the Plaintiff by Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman:

“This case really is about choice. It's about the right of every single person in this room to make a choice about what chemicals they expose themselves, their family or their children to…If you don’t warn, you don’t give someone the choice, and if someone gets hurt from that, or, God forbid, someone gets cancer, then I believe someone should be held responsible for that.”

Day 2, July 10: Did Monsanto suppress its own research?

On day 2 of the Johnson trial, the jury heard deposition testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Dr. Mark Martens. Johnson’s attorneys asked Martens why Monsanto decided to abandon research conducted in 1999, by Dr. James Parry, an independent toxicologist Monsanto hired as a consultant after deeming him a top expert in his field.

Dr. Parry’s research concluded that glyphosate and the Roundup formulation may cause genetic mutations, a potential precursor to cancer. According to Martens, Monsanto did not allow independent scientists to review Dr. Parry’s research for further study after it was received, nor did the company give Dr. Parry’s research to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Day 3, July 12: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses the tumors in glyphosate animal studies, and the EPA’s initial findings in 1985, that glyphosate is a “possible” human carcinogen

On day 3, Judge Suzanne Ramos denied attorney Brent Wisner’s request that epidemiology/toxicology expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, be permitted to share his opinions before the jury concerning the amount of glyphosate exposure the state of California has determined causes cancer.

Wisner argued that a previous ruling allowed Monsanto witnesses to testify about foreign regulatory decisions to not list glyphosate as carcinogenic, so it did not make sense to deny the plaintiff the opportunity to discuss California’s own regulatory decision to list glyphosate as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer.

Nevertheless, Dr. Portier testified that his analysis of 13 rodent studies on glyphosate, and the findings of  the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) led him to conclude that exposure to glyphosate causes NHL. Portier said:

“If you have multiple tumors of the same type in multiple species, it adds to the strength of causality. By seeing lots of different tumor types hit in the same animal, the more important it is to the human causal.”

Day 4, July 13: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses flaws with U.S. and EU regulatory Evaluations for glyphosate

On day 4, Monsanto counsel, Kirby Griffis, tried to rattle Dr. Christopher Portier during cross-examination, confronting the expert witness with the EPA’s conclusion that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. During testimony, Dr. Portier slammed U.S. and European regulators over their methodology in evaluating glyphosate.

For example, Dr. Portier testified that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) missed 15 tumors in a series of rodent studies on glyphosate because the agency used the wrong methodology. During cross-examination, he said:

“My entire career been about using scientific evidence to make decisions, primarily about the carcinogenicity of compounds, and we’ve worked for years and years to do that appropriately. This was just so amazingly wrong in the way they were doing it.”

Day 5, July 16: fireworks during cross-examination as Monsanto lawyer attempts to discredit expert witness

On day 5, as cross-examination continued Monday, Monsanto counsel Kirby Griffis accused cancer expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, of basing his opinion that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer on lucrative consulting contracts from law firms and not on scientific evidence.

“You said EPA was ‘so amazingly wrong;’ EFSA was ‘so amazingly, astonishingly wrong.’ ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) got one thing right,” Griffis said, attempting to poke holes in Dr. Portier’s prior testimony about U.S. and European regulators’ evaluations of glyphosate.

Undaunted, Dr. Portier responded: “It’s absolutely clear they’re not using [their guidelines] appropriately.”

During redirect, Dr. Portier also pointed out that a reassessment report for glyphosate conducted by a German agency that participated in EFSA’s review of glyphosate, contained verbatim passages written by herbicide manufacturers.

Day 6, July 17: Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson called Monsanto to ask if using Roundup caused his skin rashes, later diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma

On day 6, Monsanto executive Dr. Daniel Goldstein attempted to rebut plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s allegation that he failed to tell him whether exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused him to develop skin rashes over a significant portion of his body.

In his lawsuit, Johnson alleges he developed cancerous lesions on his body after using Roundup between 2012 and 2015, as part of his groundskeeper job, including two instances where he was drenched in the weed killer.

The jury saw video testimony from Dr. Goldstein, who was asked whether he returned calls that Johnson had made to the company in 2014, asking if exposure to Roundup created the widespread lesions all over his body.

Dr. Goldstein testified that he did not recall speaking to Johnson, though an internal Monsanto email shows that he intended to call Johnson.

“It would certainly be helpful to have spoken with him, and I don’t recall whether I did,” Goldstein testified.

Day 7, July 18: Tempers flare as Monsanto lawyer becomes visibly frustrated with cancer expert, Dr. Alfred Neugut

On day 7, oncology and epidemiology expert Dr. Alfred Neugut of Columbia University took the stand and things got a bit heated during his cross-examination. At one point, Monsanto attorney George Lombardi gave the court an inaccurate characterization of a statement Dr. Neugut had made. Dr. Neugut yelled back to Lombardi to stop “misquoting” him.

Another highlight was Dr. Neugut’s dismissal of the Agricultural Health Study, which Monsanto routinely points to as conclusive proof that glyphosate is safe. Like other expert witnesses for the plaintiff, Dr. Neugut told the jury about several key flaws with the study, including the imputation of data to make up for poor follow-up among the study’s subjects, which rendered the study a “throwaway.” Dr. Neugut said:

“You use imputation when you’ve got a screwed-up study with poor follow-up. Unfortunately, this is a case of measurings—with a gold scale, where it turns out the results just don’t turn out to be what they should be because there are so many problems.”

Day 8, July 20: Plaintiffs oncologist testified that exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma”

On day 8, the court heard from Cardinal Health oncologist and physician, Dr. Chadi Nabhan, one of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s medical witnesses. Dr. Nabhan testified that Lee Johnson’s exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.”

One of Monsanto’s points of emphasis during the Johnson trial is how long it takes for cancer symptoms to manifest after exposure to a carcinogenic agent. Lawyers for the agrochemical giant say it takes 20 years, which would eliminate Roundup exposure as the cause of Mr. Johnson’s NHL.

Dr. Nabhan, however, told the jury that cancer symptoms can show in just one month. “There is no agreed-upon latency period with these types of exposures and these types of cancers,” said Nabhan, who specializes in lymphomas. “Some patients can develop the disease early on and some patients can develop it in 20 years.”

Day 9, July 23: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson testifies he “never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm”

On day 9, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and his wife, Araceli, took the stand and gave the jury a heartbreaking glimpse at how their lives have changed since Lee’s cancer diagnosis.

During her testimony, Araceli recalled when Lee first told her about his diagnosis. “I couldn’t believe it. My world just shut down,” she said, adding, “I only cried at nigt... it was very hard.”

In order to make a dent in the family’s rising medical bills, Araceli took a second job working 14-hour days while shuttling her two sons an extra 45 minutes to Napa Valley School District in hopes of providing them better educational opportunities.

When Lee took the stand, he testified in agonizing detail how he tried to hide the pain of his diagnosis from his family. “I’m trying to show my kids an example of how to deal with things and crying is not going to help you,” he said. “But I’m raising two little boys, so I’m teaching them to deal with pain and learn to deal with it and to deal with a situation if it comes to you. And sitting around sorrowful and crying is not going to help.”

Mr. Johnson also made it clear that he never would have used Roundup if he had known it causes cancer.

“I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm,” Mr. Johnson said in court on Monday. “It’s unethical, it’s wrong. People don’t deserve that.”

Day 10, July 24: Secret documents reveal Monsanto’s war on cancer scientists

On day 10, the jury heard video testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Donna Farmer, who leads the chemical company’s deceptively named Product Safety Center.

Getting Farmer to testify proved to be a challenge. When our legal team sent a process server to subpoena her testimony, Farmer was observed fleeing through a backyard fence of her St. Louis home. We had the block staked out and successfully served the summons.

In her deposition, Farmer adamantly denied that her role at Monsanto was to protect Roundup until she was confronted with an internal company document showing that, in fact, her “number one goal is to defend and maintain the global glyphosate or Roundup business.”

Under questioning from attorney Mike Miller, Farmer admitted that her primary concern was regulatory compliance rather than public health, acknowledging that she orchestrated the ghostwriting of articles for supposedly independent scientists who agreed to defend glyphosate.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said.

Day 11 & 12, July 25 & July 26: Disappointing rulings in Monsanto’s favor keeps important evidence from the jury

Judge Bolanos issued a series of rulings on Day 11 that favored Monsanto and prohibited plaintiff’s attorneys from presenting key evidence to the jury.

In one ruling, Judge Bolanos held that plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook, could not offer any opinions or descriptions about a collection of Monsanto’s internal studies on Roundup’s health effects that are highly damaging to Monsanto’s case.

We had hoped to show the jury these documents, which involve transparently deceptive statistical machinations designed to cloud the results of Monsanto’s own glyphosate research. One important internal study shows that glyphosate causes cancer in mice. Another internal Monsanto research study detailed higher human skin absorption rates of the herbicide than reported elsewhere.

Day 12 started with more of the same; Judge Bolanos blocked us from mentioning Monsanto’s “TNO dermal absorption” studies, which found far higher rates of glyphosate and Roundup absorption through the skin than previously reported. The afternoon brought some good news, however, as plaintiff’s expert, Dr. William Sawyer, testified that glyphosate alone is “clearly” carcinogenic, and that Monsanto’s practice of adding chemical surfactants “increase and enhance [Roundup’s] carcinogenicity.”

Dr. Sawyer also noted that Lee Johnson’s job as Integrated Pest Manager for the Benicia School District required him to apply Roundup in ways that maximized his exposure. In fact, Dr. Sawyer testified that Lee sprayed more than three times more Roundup per hour than the average individual in Monsanto’s premier safety studies.

Day 13, July 27: Plaintiff’s expert testifies that Roundup uses a potent surfactant that dramatically amplifies toxicity

On Day 13, plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook testified that EPA’s focus on glyphosate in isolation is a sham intended to gloss over the more important question of “whether the Roundup formulation itself, not just a single ingredient, is toxic and carcinogenic.”

According to Dr. Benbrook, Monsanto uses a potent surfactant in the Roundup formulated product that dramatically amplifies its toxicity.

The jury also heard videotaped testimony from Steven Gould, Monsanto’s head of west coast sales. In his deposition, Gould acknowledged trading emails with Greg Fernald, a chief marketer for Roundup’s California distributor, Wilbur-Ellis.

Gould complained to Fernald that California school districts were banning the use of Roundup on school grounds.

“It’s hard to understand how against all science and law they can do that—can do this,” Fernald responded. “We are being overrun by liberals and morons, sort of like a zombie movie. So we just have to start taking them out one at a time, starting with the elections next year.”

Unfortunately, since we are before a California jury, Judge Bolanos had us redact out all reference to California, but the video was still effective.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a longtime environmental advocate and author of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family. He is co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertKennedyJr. Like him on Facebook.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

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Monsanto's Herbicide Expert Has Bad Day in Court

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-08-02 17:09
August 2, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kevin BaumGenetic Engineering, Health Issues roundup_mt.jpg

Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company is the first Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper, alleges exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Johnson is one of thousands of plaintiffs to file suit against Monsanto in state court over the alleged link between Roundup and NHL. More than 450 other lawsuits filed in federal court are currently pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Since the start of the Johnson trial, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, has provided running commentary of the events in court each day. Here's his post for day 14 of the Monsanto trial:

Following the close of our case, Monsanto’s lawyers, on July 30, made an obligatory motion to nonsuit the case—a Hail Mary motion asking the judge to dismiss our claims on grounds that Plaintiff’s counsel, during the past six weeks, had not produced sufficient evidence to bring the case before the jury.

Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos denied the motion on all issues except our request for punitive damages which she reserved, presumably until the jury returns a verdict. We took that decision as a signal that Judge Bolanos is hostile to Dewayne Johnson collecting punitive damages which usually comprise the largest portion of big reward cases. Reserving a ruling on the appropriateness of “Punis” is a common strategy for judges who frown upon them. After all, the jury might decide on its own to not award punitive damages. In that case, deferring the decision until after the jury returns its verdict avoids an issue for appeal. Furthermore, if the trial court’s nullification of a jury’s punitive damages reward is reversed on appeal, the appellate court can simply reinstate the jury verdict rather than ordering the trial court to hold another full trial on that issue.

That was about the only motion we won from Judge Bolanos all Monday. The rest of the morning was another depressing parade of unfavorable rulings.

As soon as the court wrapped up its rulings on our motions, Monsanto attorney, Sandra Edwards, called UC Davis professor Kassim Al-Khatib to testify on “weed science” and herbicide use. On direct examination, Al-Khatib told Monsanto’s attorneys that it was his opinion that Johnson’s sprayer could only spray 10 to 12 gallons of Roundup per hour, not the 50 gallons that Johnson had sworn to on the stand. Al-Khatib said that the sprayer, therefore, could not have vaporized sufficient herbicide to soak or sicken Johnson.

Even before Al-Khatib was formally qualified as an expert, my colleague, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law, cut Al-Khatib’s legs off on voir dire. Under Wisner’s questioning, Al-Khatib confessed that he had never studied whether glyphosate can cause cancer, the pivotal question of this case.

That was the start of a bad day for Professor Al-Khatib.

Al-Khatib has a long history of being paid to testify for Monsanto on various cases. Under usual circumstances, payment in exchange for “expert” testimony would be a rich and permissible subject for impeachment. Al-Khatib, after all, has incentive to tailor his testimony to keep his Monsanto gravy train on the rails.

A jury should be able to hear this evidence of potential bias. Yet Judge Bolanos ruled we could impeach Al-Khatib only about the money he received for this particular case. The amounts were still substantial—invoices revealed that Monsanto paid professor Al-Khatib $70,000 for 200 hours of work! When Wisner asked what he did during those 200 hours, Al-Khatib said he read one of Johnson’s three depositions and his trial testimony, and reviewed the photograph of Johnson’s sprayer.

Wisner: “And to be clear, that [$70,000] was for you to tell this jury that you didn't think that the [sprayer] drift that Mr. Johnson received was significant?”

Al-Khatib: “Well, to review the case and make opinion about the case, you know. That’s basically what it is for my time.

Wisner: “And that 200 hours, you never actually physically looked at the machine?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t actually go to Benicia?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t actually speak to Mr. Johnson, did you?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t interview his employers?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “Didn’t look at the community records of what his spraying was at the school?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t review any school records?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t review—I mean, from what I can tell, you looked at a photograph and you looked at one deposition.”

During a brief court recess, Wisner found sprayer data from a Google search. We hurried to make copies and get them stamped as evidence. After lunch, Wisner showed Al-Khatib several descriptions of 50-gallon sprayers, similar to Johnson’s. Their manufacturer’s marketing materials all boasted that their herbicide sprayers were capable of discharging 60 to 120 gallons per hour.

Wisner then confronted Al-Khatib on his financial interests in the continued use of herbicides.

Wisner: “Okay. Sir, you have a financial interest in the use of herbicides, don’t you?”

Al-Khatib: “I don’t really. I’m a weed scientist. I got to give my students, the growers, the best way to manage weeds. So I don’t have a financial interest in that.”

Wisner: “Well, you own two patents, don’t you?”

Al-Khatib: Well, but I own the two patents, and those are not about herbicide…”

As it turns out, that was a fib.

Wisner: “Permission to approach, your honor?

Wisner handed Al-Khatib a copy of his patent application. The title was Acetylh-COA Carbotlase HERBICIDE Resistant Sorghum. Wisner asked, “Do you see that, Doctor? This is one of your patents, right?”

Al-Khatib: “Yeah, this is—I am the patent holder, not the patent owner… these are about sorghum plant that has the ability to resist herbicides.”

Finally, Wisner asked Al-Khatib whether, when he teaches his class on safe herbicide application at UC Davis, does he inform his students about the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) classification of glyphosate as “a probable human carcinogen.” Al-Khatib feigned that he had barely heard of IARC. Wisner drilled down:

Wisner: “You’re aware of the IARC’s classification of glyphosate as a human probable carcinogen; right?”

Al-Khatib: “I read the news brief about it, you know...”

Wisner: “You’ve actually spoken publicly about it; right?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner handed Al-Khatib an article from the Half Moon Bay Review describing a recent herbicide forum held on the Elkus Ranch.

Wisner: “Sir, I just handed you a document. It’s a newspaper article. Do you see that?”

Al-Khatib: “Yeah.”

Wisner: “Okay let’s just look at what it says and see if it refreshes your recollection. It discusses you, do you see that? It says, “The event… on Roundup, was hosted by Blue Circle, the University of California cooperative extension. It began with a presentation from Kassim Al-Khatib, a University of California Davis cooperative extension specialist and plant science professor.” That’s you, right?”

Al-Khatib: “That’s me. What is this Elkus Ranch? Is that the Half Moon? Because I want to remember where…”

Wisner: “Honestly, Doctor, you were the one that was there so you would know better than me.”

Al-Khatib: “Just go ahead because I need to see...”

Wisner: “At the end of it, Al-Khatib addressed a March report from the World Health Organization that found glyphosate to be a ‘probable carcinogen,’ putting it [according to Al-Khatib] in the same level of cancer with things like anabolic steroids when used industrially. Did you say that, Doctor?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not. I was there to talk about glyphosate use. I didn’t talk about all this. I have not even seen this.”

Wisner: “Well, it quotes you.”

Al-Khatib: “Well—”

Wisner: “It says—in response to that, it says that you said, ‘We’ve got to take it seriously. You’ve got to be careful when you use it.’ So, a second ago, when I asked you, ‘Did you talk about it publicly,’ are you going to change that testimony now? You actually have talked about IARC publicly?”

Al-Khatib: “No. I did not touch that. My thought in that presentation is to talk about Roundup use and application of Roundup. So, I never seen this before, what they wrote….”

Ignoring Professor Al-Khatib’s double talk, Wisner grinned at the jury, “The internet is amazing!”

Here are key highlights from the Monsanto trial based off of Robert F. Kennedy's daily entries: 

Day 1, July 9: opening statements

Here’s a link to the opening statement for the Plaintiff by Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman:

“This case really is about choice. It's about the right of every single person in this room to make a choice about what chemicals they expose themselves, their family or their children to…If you don’t warn, you don’t give someone the choice, and if someone gets hurt from that, or, God forbid, someone gets cancer, then I believe someone should be held responsible for that.”

Day 2, July 10: Did Monsanto suppress its own research?

On day 2 of the Johnson trial, the jury heard deposition testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Dr. Mark Martens. Johnson’s attorneys asked Martens why Monsanto decided to abandon research conducted in 1999, by Dr. James Parry, an independent toxicologist Monsanto hired as a consultant after deeming him a top expert in his field.

Dr. Parry’s research concluded that glyphosate and the Roundup formulation may cause genetic mutations, a potential precursor to cancer. According to Martens, Monsanto did not allow independent scientists to review Dr. Parry’s research for further study after it was received, nor did the company give Dr. Parry’s research to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Day 3, July 12: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses the tumors in glyphosate animal studies, and the EPA’s initial findings in 1985, that glyphosate is a “possible” human carcinogen

On day 3, Judge Suzanne Ramos denied attorney Brent Wisner’s request that epidemiology/toxicology expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, be permitted to share his opinions before the jury concerning the amount of glyphosate exposure the state of California has determined causes cancer.

Wisner argued that a previous ruling allowed Monsanto witnesses to testify about foreign regulatory decisions to not list glyphosate as carcinogenic, so it did not make sense to deny the plaintiff the opportunity to discuss California’s own regulatory decision to list glyphosate as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer.

Nevertheless, Dr. Portier testified that his analysis of 13 rodent studies on glyphosate, and the findings of  the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) led him to conclude that exposure to glyphosate causes NHL. Portier said:

“If you have multiple tumors of the same type in multiple species, it adds to the strength of causality. By seeing lots of different tumor types hit in the same animal, the more important it is to the human causal.”

Day 4, July 13: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses flaws with U.S. and EU regulatory Evaluations for glyphosate

On day 4, Monsanto counsel, Kirby Griffis, tried to rattle Dr. Christopher Portier during cross-examination, confronting the expert witness with the EPA’s conclusion that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. During testimony, Dr. Portier slammed U.S. and European regulators over their methodology in evaluating glyphosate.

For example, Dr. Portier testified that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) missed 15 tumors in a series of rodent studies on glyphosate because the agency used the wrong methodology. During cross-examination, he said:

“My entire career been about using scientific evidence to make decisions, primarily about the carcinogenicity of compounds, and we’ve worked for years and years to do that appropriately. This was just so amazingly wrong in the way they were doing it.”

Day 5, July 16: fireworks during cross-examination as Monsanto lawyer attempts to discredit expert witness

On day 5, as cross-examination continued Monday, Monsanto counsel Kirby Griffis accused cancer expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, of basing his opinion that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer on lucrative consulting contracts from law firms and not on scientific evidence.

“You said EPA was ‘so amazingly wrong;’ EFSA was ‘so amazingly, astonishingly wrong.’ ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) got one thing right,” Griffis said, attempting to poke holes in Dr. Portier’s prior testimony about U.S. and European regulators’ evaluations of glyphosate.

Undaunted, Dr. Portier responded: “It’s absolutely clear they’re not using [their guidelines] appropriately.”

During redirect, Dr. Portier also pointed out that a reassessment report for glyphosate conducted by a German agency that participated in EFSA’s review of glyphosate, contained verbatim passages written by herbicide manufacturers.

Day 6, July 17: Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson called Monsanto to ask if using Roundup caused his skin rashes, later diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma

On day 6, Monsanto executive Dr. Daniel Goldstein attempted to rebut plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s allegation that he failed to tell him whether exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused him to develop skin rashes over a significant portion of his body.

In his lawsuit, Johnson alleges he developed cancerous lesions on his body after using Roundup between 2012 and 2015, as part of his groundskeeper job, including two instances where he was drenched in the weed killer.

The jury saw video testimony from Dr. Goldstein, who was asked whether he returned calls that Johnson had made to the company in 2014, asking if exposure to Roundup created the widespread lesions all over his body.

Dr. Goldstein testified that he did not recall speaking to Johnson, though an internal Monsanto email shows that he intended to call Johnson.

“It would certainly be helpful to have spoken with him, and I don’t recall whether I did,” Goldstein testified.

Day 7, July 18: Tempers flare as Monsanto lawyer becomes visibly frustrated with cancer expert, Dr. Alfred Neugut

On day 7, oncology and epidemiology expert Dr. Alfred Neugut of Columbia University took the stand and things got a bit heated during his cross-examination. At one point, Monsanto attorney George Lombardi gave the court an inaccurate characterization of a statement Dr. Neugut had made. Dr. Neugut yelled back to Lombardi to stop “misquoting” him.

Another highlight was Dr. Neugut’s dismissal of the Agricultural Health Study, which Monsanto routinely points to as conclusive proof that glyphosate is safe. Like other expert witnesses for the plaintiff, Dr. Neugut told the jury about several key flaws with the study, including the imputation of data to make up for poor follow-up among the study’s subjects, which rendered the study a “throwaway.” Dr. Neugut said:

“You use imputation when you’ve got a screwed-up study with poor follow-up. Unfortunately, this is a case of measurings—with a gold scale, where it turns out the results just don’t turn out to be what they should be because there are so many problems.”

Day 8, July 20: Plaintiffs oncologist testified that exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma”

On day 8, the court heard from Cardinal Health oncologist and physician, Dr. Chadi Nabhan, one of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s medical witnesses. Dr. Nabhan testified that Lee Johnson’s exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.”

One of Monsanto’s points of emphasis during the Johnson trial is how long it takes for cancer symptoms to manifest after exposure to a carcinogenic agent. Lawyers for the agrochemical giant say it takes 20 years, which would eliminate Roundup exposure as the cause of Mr. Johnson’s NHL.

Dr. Nabhan, however, told the jury that cancer symptoms can show in just one month. “There is no agreed-upon latency period with these types of exposures and these types of cancers,” said Nabhan, who specializes in lymphomas. “Some patients can develop the disease early on and some patients can develop it in 20 years.”

Day 9, July 23: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson testifies he “never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm”

On day 9, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and his wife, Araceli, took the stand and gave the jury a heartbreaking glimpse at how their lives have changed since Lee’s cancer diagnosis.

During her testimony, Araceli recalled when Lee first told her about his diagnosis. “I couldn’t believe it. My world just shut down,” she said, adding, “I only cried at nigt... it was very hard.”

In order to make a dent in the family’s rising medical bills, Araceli took a second job working 14-hour days while shuttling her two sons an extra 45 minutes to Napa Valley School District in hopes of providing them better educational opportunities.

When Lee took the stand, he testified in agonizing detail how he tried to hide the pain of his diagnosis from his family. “I’m trying to show my kids an example of how to deal with things and crying is not going to help you,” he said. “But I’m raising two little boys, so I’m teaching them to deal with pain and learn to deal with it and to deal with a situation if it comes to you. And sitting around sorrowful and crying is not going to help.”

Mr. Johnson also made it clear that he never would have used Roundup if he had known it causes cancer.

“I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm,” Mr. Johnson said in court on Monday. “It’s unethical, it’s wrong. People don’t deserve that.”

Day 10, July 24: Secret documents reveal Monsanto’s war on cancer scientists

On day 10, the jury heard video testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Donna Farmer, who leads the chemical company’s deceptively named Product Safety Center.

Getting Farmer to testify proved to be a challenge. When our legal team sent a process server to subpoena her testimony, Farmer was observed fleeing through a backyard fence of her St. Louis home. We had the block staked out and successfully served the summons.

In her deposition, Farmer adamantly denied that her role at Monsanto was to protect Roundup until she was confronted with an internal company document showing that, in fact, her “number one goal is to defend and maintain the global glyphosate or Roundup business.”

Under questioning from attorney Mike Miller, Farmer admitted that her primary concern was regulatory compliance rather than public health, acknowledging that she orchestrated the ghostwriting of articles for supposedly independent scientists who agreed to defend glyphosate.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said.

Day 11 & 12, July 25 & July 26: Disappointing rulings in Monsanto’s favor keeps important evidence from the jury

Judge Bolanos issued a series of rulings on Day 11 that favored Monsanto and prohibited plaintiff’s attorneys from presenting key evidence to the jury.

In one ruling, Judge Bolanos held that plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook, could not offer any opinions or descriptions about a collection of Monsanto’s internal studies on Roundup’s health effects that are highly damaging to Monsanto’s case.

We had hoped to show the jury these documents, which involve transparently deceptive statistical machinations designed to cloud the results of Monsanto’s own glyphosate research. One important internal study shows that glyphosate causes cancer in mice. Another internal Monsanto research study detailed higher human skin absorption rates of the herbicide than reported elsewhere.

Day 12 started with more of the same; Judge Bolanos blocked us from mentioning Monsanto’s “TNO dermal absorption” studies, which found far higher rates of glyphosate and Roundup absorption through the skin than previously reported. The afternoon brought some good news, however, as plaintiff’s expert, Dr. William Sawyer, testified that glyphosate alone is “clearly” carcinogenic, and that Monsanto’s practice of adding chemical surfactants “increase and enhance [Roundup’s] carcinogenicity.”

Dr. Sawyer also noted that Lee Johnson’s job as Integrated Pest Manager for the Benicia School District required him to apply Roundup in ways that maximized his exposure. In fact, Dr. Sawyer testified that Lee sprayed more than three times more Roundup per hour than the average individual in Monsanto’s premier safety studies.

Day 13, July 27: Plaintiff’s expert testifies that Roundup uses a potent surfactant that dramatically amplifies toxicity

On Day 13, plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook testified that EPA’s focus on glyphosate in isolation is a sham intended to gloss over the more important question of “whether the Roundup formulation itself, not just a single ingredient, is toxic and carcinogenic.”

According to Dr. Benbrook, Monsanto uses a potent surfactant in the Roundup formulated product that dramatically amplifies its toxicity.

The jury also heard videotaped testimony from Steven Gould, Monsanto’s head of west coast sales. In his deposition, Gould acknowledged trading emails with Greg Fernald, a chief marketer for Roundup’s California distributor, Wilbur-Ellis.

Gould complained to Fernald that California school districts were banning the use of Roundup on school grounds.

“It’s hard to understand how against all science and law they can do that—can do this,” Fernald responded. “We are being overrun by liberals and morons, sort of like a zombie movie. So we just have to start taking them out one at a time, starting with the elections next year.”

Unfortunately, since we are before a California jury, Judge Bolanos had us redact out all reference to California, but the video was still effective.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a longtime environmental advocate and author of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family. He is co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertKennedyJr. Like him on Facebook.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

#MonsantoTrial

Plaintiff’s Final Live Witness Testifies in Monsanto Trial

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-07-31 15:22
July 31, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kevin BaumGenetic Engineering, Health Issues leeteam.jpg Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. with "Dream Team" lawyers from Miller Law and Baum Hedlund Law—Monsanto's worst nightmare.

Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company is the first Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper, alleges exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Johnson is one of thousands of plaintiffs to file suit against Monsanto in state court over the alleged link between Roundup and NHL. More than 450 other lawsuits filed in federal court are currently pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Since the start of the Johnson trial, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, has provided running commentary of the events in court each day. Here's his post for day 13 of the Monsanto trial:

On Friday morning, July 27, day 13 of the Monsanto trial, we called our final live witness in Dewayne Johnson’s case against Monsanto—Dr. Charles Benbrook. Benbrook is an agricultural and toxicology scientist. A Harvard graduate and former executive director of the National Academy of Sciences, Benbrook has been studying the link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since 2000.

Benbrook is part of the team of scientists working with Children’s Environmental Health Network to study the effects of widespread herbicide exposure on children. He explained that “there’s great concern, particularly in the Midwest,” due to Roundup’s increased pervasiveness, and that there had been a “substantial increase in herbicide use [over that period]. There’s [now] over three quarters of a pound of the glyphosate-active ingredient applied on every cropland acre in America if you spread it out equally.”

Benbrook testified that our Monsanto-friendly Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) focus on glyphosate alone is a sham intended to gloss over the more important question of “whether the Roundup formulation itself, not just a single ingredient, is toxic and carcinogenic.” He said that Monsanto uses a potent surfactant that dramatically amplifies Roundup’s toxicity.

Benbrook testified that glyphosate is a proven animal carcinogen. My colleague, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law, delicately asked a series of carefully phrased questions to lead Benbrook through descriptions of some of the 20-odd animal studies linking Roundup to cancer.

In recent days, as described in an earlier post, our side has been dealt a series of harsh rulings by Judge Bolanos, rulings which limited the admissibility of this class of evidence. Monsanto’s attorney, Kirby Griffis, objected forcefully whenever Wisner and Benbrook edged near the red lines drawn by the judge. Despite these interruptions, Benbrook succeeded, if haltingly, in describing Monsanto’s attempts to suppress data on glyphosate’s carcinogenicity.

Benbrook showed that Monsanto had repeatedly killed internal company studies of carcinogenicity. When an EPA-mandated animal study showed clear evidence of glyphosate’s carcinogenicity, the company bullied and bamboozled the EPA to withdraw the study. According to Benbrook, that study showed that “three in 50 of exposed mice were getting kidney tumors following exposure.” When the EPA caved in, it ordered Monsanto to redo the study. Monsanto simply sandbagged the agency, refusing to comply. Eventually, the beleaguered agency backed down completely.

Benbrook pushed back hard on Griffis’ claim that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) never looked at real-world exposure data before issuing its monograph that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. “Heavens no,” Benbrook said laughing at the Monsanto attorney. “The very first section addresses use and exposure!”

Benbrook also eviscerated Monsanto scientist, Dr. William Goldstein’s earlier testimony that the IARC committee “cherry picked the data that they wanted to focus on rather than looking at the broader weight of evidence.” Benbrook explained:

“IARC relies only on scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals, where all the data is available, the methods are available, the science is transparent, if you will, fully explained. One of the things IARC does… certainly better than any regulatory agency around the world, is really critically evaluate the quality of the individual studies so that they put the most weight on the best studies.”

Benbrook contrasted IARC’s open, transparent protocols with EPA’s dubious practice of relying upon secret, unpublished and not peer-reviewed studies by industry, and upon covert consultations with the regulated company.

Benbrook testified that Lee Johnson’s Roundup exposure exceeded the typical exposure endured by the farmers who were the subjects of Monsanto’s loudly touted Agricultural Health Study. Large-scale farmers are “inside a cab with glass and a sophisticated air filtration system… the [farm] industry’s done a great job of really minimizing exposures for people—with modern equipment,” Benbrook said, while Lee and other non-farm users “use either a backpack sprayer or a hand-held sprayer… kind of like a power washer,” which leak and create aerosols that follow the applicator in a toxic cloud.

Benbrook was a powerful final live witness who reinforced, and tied together, the testimony of the Plaintiff’s five-week parade of expert fact witnesses. Kirby Griffis’ (Monsanto) afternoon cross examination of Benbrook was bootless.

As one of our final treats for the jury, Wisner played videotaped testimony of Steven Gould, Monsanto’s head of sales for the West Coast, who worked closely with product safety chief Dr. Donna Farmer during his time at Monsanto. As the tape played on the courtroom monitor, the jury watched Plaintiff counsel’s Jeff Seldomridge of the Miller Firm catch Gould in embarrassing whoppers so many times during the video depo that the befuddled Gould looked like a nervous wreck by the time the credits rolled.

In his finalé, Gould grudgingly acknowledged trading emails with Greg Fernald, a chief marketer for Roundup’s California distributor, Wilbur-Ellis. Gould complained to Fernald that California school districts were banning the use of Roundup on school grounds.

“It’s hard to understand how against all science and law they can do that—can do this,” Fernald responds. “We are being overrun by liberals and morons, sort of like a zombie movie. So we just have to start taking them out one at a time, starting with the elections next year.”

Gould admitted to Seldomridge that he so admired Fernald’s turn of phrase that he forwarded Fernald’s email to Monsanto’s employees. Unfortunately, since we are before a California jury, Judge Bolanos had us redact out all reference to California, but the video was still effective.

The plaintiff’s trial team closed its case with the videotaped testimony from former Monsanto product salesman, Kirk Azevedo, who joined Monsanto on an idealistic impulse after seeing a speech by Monsanto’s founder, Robert Shapiro. During that talk, Shapiro described his vision of a green, clean and safe future in which Monsanto would make itself an exemplar of good corporate citizenship. Azevedo recalled Shapiro describing his vision for “reducing in-process waste and the factories of the future not being these spewing pollution factories, but, you know being these plants that are going to be green and we can, you know, help, you know, save the world in this regard.”

Azevedo then described a subsequent deflating interaction with a Monsanto senior vice president at a training seminar for the chemical company’s market managers. The V.P. was dismissive, “We don’t know what Robert Shapiro is really talking about here. He’s just kind of this visionary guy. This sort of thing isn’t really what we’re about. We’re about making money, so get that straight.”

We feel that the trial is going our way. Earlier in the morning, Wisner read a stipulation to the jury describing Monsanto’s value, which is relevant to the company’s ability to pay large damages. In June, Monsanto sold itself for $66 billion to Bayer (a German company cut from the same corrupt, manipulating and deceptive cloth as Monsanto). We were disheartened when Judge Ramos cautioned our side against any mention of Monsanto’s $66-billion market value to the jury. Finally, we stipulated with the company’s defense counsel that we would only use the company’s book value; a relatively paltry $6.6 billion. The tradeoff is that we can mention that Monsanto has $3.3 billion in cash on hand.

Here are key highlights from the Monsanto trial based off of Robert F. Kennedy's daily entries: 

Day 1, July 9: opening statements

Here’s a link to the opening statement for the Plaintiff by Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman:

“This case really is about choice. It's about the right of every single person in this room to make a choice about what chemicals they expose themselves, their family or their children to…If you don’t warn, you don’t give someone the choice, and if someone gets hurt from that, or, God forbid, someone gets cancer, then I believe someone should be held responsible for that.”

Day 2, July 10: Did Monsanto suppress its own research?

On day 2 of the Johnson trial, the jury heard deposition testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Dr. Mark Martens. Johnson’s attorneys asked Martens why Monsanto decided to abandon research conducted in 1999, by Dr. James Parry, an independent toxicologist Monsanto hired as a consultant after deeming him a top expert in his field.

Dr. Parry’s research concluded that glyphosate and the Roundup formulation may cause genetic mutations, a potential precursor to cancer. According to Martens, Monsanto did not allow independent scientists to review Dr. Parry’s research for further study after it was received, nor did the company give Dr. Parry’s research to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Day 3, July 12: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses the tumors in glyphosate animal studies, and the EPA’s initial findings in 1985, that glyphosate is a “possible” human carcinogen

On day 3, Judge Suzanne Ramos denied attorney Brent Wisner’s request that epidemiology/toxicology expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, be permitted to share his opinions before the jury concerning the amount of glyphosate exposure the state of California has determined causes cancer.

Wisner argued that a previous ruling allowed Monsanto witnesses to testify about foreign regulatory decisions to not list glyphosate as carcinogenic, so it did not make sense to deny the plaintiff the opportunity to discuss California’s own regulatory decision to list glyphosate as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer.

Nevertheless, Dr. Portier testified that his analysis of 13 rodent studies on glyphosate, and the findings of  the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) led him to conclude that exposure to glyphosate causes NHL. Portier said:

“If you have multiple tumors of the same type in multiple species, it adds to the strength of causality. By seeing lots of different tumor types hit in the same animal, the more important it is to the human causal.”

Day 4, July 13: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses flaws with U.S. and EU regulatory Evaluations for glyphosate

On day 4, Monsanto counsel, Kirby Griffis, tried to rattle Dr. Christopher Portier during cross-examination, confronting the expert witness with the EPA’s conclusion that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. During testimony, Dr. Portier slammed U.S. and European regulators over their methodology in evaluating glyphosate.

For example, Dr. Portier testified that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) missed 15 tumors in a series of rodent studies on glyphosate because the agency used the wrong methodology. During cross-examination, he said:

“My entire career been about using scientific evidence to make decisions, primarily about the carcinogenicity of compounds, and we’ve worked for years and years to do that appropriately. This was just so amazingly wrong in the way they were doing it.”

Day 5, July 16: fireworks during cross-examination as Monsanto lawyer attempts to discredit expert witness

On day 5, as cross-examination continued Monday, Monsanto counsel Kirby Griffis accused cancer expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, of basing his opinion that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer on lucrative consulting contracts from law firms and not on scientific evidence.

“You said EPA was ‘so amazingly wrong;’ EFSA was ‘so amazingly, astonishingly wrong.’ ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) got one thing right,” Griffis said, attempting to poke holes in Dr. Portier’s prior testimony about U.S. and European regulators’ evaluations of glyphosate.

Undaunted, Dr. Portier responded: “It’s absolutely clear they’re not using [their guidelines] appropriately.”

During redirect, Dr. Portier also pointed out that a reassessment report for glyphosate conducted by a German agency that participated in EFSA’s review of glyphosate, contained verbatim passages written by herbicide manufacturers.

Day 6, July 17: Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson called Monsanto to ask if using Roundup caused his skin rashes, later diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma

On day 6, Monsanto executive Dr. Daniel Goldstein attempted to rebut plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s allegation that he failed to tell him whether exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused him to develop skin rashes over a significant portion of his body.

In his lawsuit, Johnson alleges he developed cancerous lesions on his body after using Roundup between 2012 and 2015, as part of his groundskeeper job, including two instances where he was drenched in the weed killer.

The jury saw video testimony from Dr. Goldstein, who was asked whether he returned calls that Johnson had made to the company in 2014, asking if exposure to Roundup created the widespread lesions all over his body.

Dr. Goldstein testified that he did not recall speaking to Johnson, though an internal Monsanto email shows that he intended to call Johnson.

“It would certainly be helpful to have spoken with him, and I don’t recall whether I did,” Goldstein testified.

Day 7, July 18: Tempers flare as Monsanto lawyer becomes visibly frustrated with cancer expert, Dr. Alfred Neugut

On day 7, oncology and epidemiology expert Dr. Alfred Neugut of Columbia University took the stand and things got a bit heated during his cross-examination. At one point, Monsanto attorney George Lombardi gave the court an inaccurate characterization of a statement Dr. Neugut had made. Dr. Neugut yelled back to Lombardi to stop “misquoting” him.

Another highlight was Dr. Neugut’s dismissal of the Agricultural Health Study, which Monsanto routinely points to as conclusive proof that glyphosate is safe. Like other expert witnesses for the plaintiff, Dr. Neugut told the jury about several key flaws with the study, including the imputation of data to make up for poor follow-up among the study’s subjects, which rendered the study a “throwaway.” Dr. Neugut said:

“You use imputation when you’ve got a screwed-up study with poor follow-up. Unfortunately, this is a case of measurings—with a gold scale, where it turns out the results just don’t turn out to be what they should be because there are so many problems.”

Day 8, July 20: Plaintiffs oncologist testified that exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma”

On day 8, the court heard from Cardinal Health oncologist and physician, Dr. Chadi Nabhan, one of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s medical witnesses. Dr. Nabhan testified that Lee Johnson’s exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.”

One of Monsanto’s points of emphasis during the Johnson trial is how long it takes for cancer symptoms to manifest after exposure to a carcinogenic agent. Lawyers for the agrochemical giant say it takes 20 years, which would eliminate Roundup exposure as the cause of Mr. Johnson’s NHL.

Dr. Nabhan, however, told the jury that cancer symptoms can show in just one month. “There is no agreed-upon latency period with these types of exposures and these types of cancers,” said Nabhan, who specializes in lymphomas. “Some patients can develop the disease early on and some patients can develop it in 20 years.”

Day 9, July 23: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson testifies he “never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm”

On day 9, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and his wife, Araceli, took the stand and gave the jury a heartbreaking glimpse at how their lives have changed since Lee’s cancer diagnosis.

During her testimony, Araceli recalled when Lee first told her about his diagnosis. “I couldn’t believe it. My world just shut down,” she said, adding, “I only cried at nigt... it was very hard.”

In order to make a dent in the family’s rising medical bills, Araceli took a second job working 14-hour days while shuttling her two sons an extra 45 minutes to Napa Valley School District in hopes of providing them better educational opportunities.

When Lee took the stand, he testified in agonizing detail how he tried to hide the pain of his diagnosis from his family. “I’m trying to show my kids an example of how to deal with things and crying is not going to help you,” he said. “But I’m raising two little boys, so I’m teaching them to deal with pain and learn to deal with it and to deal with a situation if it comes to you. And sitting around sorrowful and crying is not going to help.”

Mr. Johnson also made it clear that he never would have used Roundup if he had known it causes cancer.

“I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm,” Mr. Johnson said in court on Monday. “It’s unethical, it’s wrong. People don’t deserve that.”

Day 10, July 24: Secret documents reveal Monsanto’s war on cancer scientists

On day 10, the jury heard video testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Donna Farmer, who leads the chemical company’s deceptively named Product Safety Center.

Getting Farmer to testify proved to be a challenge. When our legal team sent a process server to subpoena her testimony, Farmer was observed fleeing through a backyard fence of her St. Louis home. We had the block staked out and successfully served the summons.

In her deposition, Farmer adamantly denied that her role at Monsanto was to protect Roundup until she was confronted with an internal company document showing that, in fact, her “number one goal is to defend and maintain the global glyphosate or Roundup business.”

Under questioning from attorney Mike Miller, Farmer admitted that her primary concern was regulatory compliance rather than public health, acknowledging that she orchestrated the ghostwriting of articles for supposedly independent scientists who agreed to defend glyphosate.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said.

Day 11 & 12, July 25 & July 26: Disappointing rulings in Monsanto’s favor keeps important evidence from the jury

Judge Bolanos issued a series of rulings on Day 11 that favored Monsanto and prohibited plaintiff’s attorneys from presenting key evidence to the jury.

In one ruling, Judge Bolanos held that plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook, could not offer any opinions or descriptions about a collection of Monsanto’s internal studies on Roundup’s health effects that are highly damaging to Monsanto’s case.

We had hoped to show the jury these documents, which involve transparently deceptive statistical machinations designed to cloud the results of Monsanto’s own glyphosate research. One important internal study shows that glyphosate causes cancer in mice. Another internal Monsanto research study detailed higher human skin absorption rates of the herbicide than reported elsewhere.

Day 12 started with more of the same; Judge Bolanos blocked us from mentioning Monsanto’s “TNO dermal absorption” studies, which found far higher rates of glyphosate and Roundup absorption through the skin than previously reported. The afternoon brought some good news, however, as plaintiff’s expert, Dr. William Sawyer, testified that glyphosate alone is “clearly” carcinogenic, and that Monsanto’s practice of adding chemical surfactants “increase and enhance [Roundup’s] carcinogenicity.”

Dr. Sawyer also noted that Lee Johnson’s job as Integrated Pest Manager for the Benicia School District required him to apply Roundup in ways that maximized his exposure. In fact, Dr. Sawyer testified that Lee sprayed more than three times more Roundup per hour than the average individual in Monsanto’s premier safety studies.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a longtime environmental advocate and author of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family. He is co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertKennedyJr. Like him on Facebook.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

#MonsantoTrial

Monsanto Trial: Two Days Closer to a Verdict

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-07-30 15:51
July 30, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kevin BaumGenetic Engineering, Health Issues break.jpg Dr. William Sawyer, Michael Baum, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Dr. Charles Benbrook in the plaintiffs holding room between court sessions.

Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company is the first Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper, alleges exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Johnson is one of thousands of plaintiffs to file suit against Monsanto in state court over the alleged link between Roundup and NHL. More than 450 other lawsuits filed in federal court are currently pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Since the start of the Johnson trial, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, has provided running commentary of the events in court each day. Here's his post for day 11 and day 12 of the Monsanto trial:

Wednesday, July 25—day 11 of the Monsanto trial—seemed a dark day for the Plaintiff.

With the jury off duty, Judge Bolanos heard a parade of evidentiary motions and made a series of surprising and disappointing rulings in Monsanto’s favor for each one.

First, Plaintiff’s counsel lead by Brent Wisner, sought to exclude evidence that our side’s exposure expert, Dr. William Sawyer, occasionally used Roundup himself. Wisner and his colleague, Tim Litzenburg, pointed out that in the tobacco context, the courts have consistently held that an expert witness’s cigarette use is irrelevant. The court indicated its inclination to ignore this precedent.

Judge Bolanos reasoned that the defense counsel could legitimately impeach Sawyer with his admissions that he used Roundup. Wisner told the judge that, in that case, he intended to have Dr. Sawyer testify that his use resulted in zero exposure due to his precautions of redesigning his spray wand to prevent aerosol drift. We wanted, also, to show that Dr. Sawyer made careful efforts to avoid consuming glyphosate by eating only organic foods. However, Judge Bolanos said she would prohibit our team from mentioning Sawyer’s diet.

Monsanto has fought consistently and successfully to prohibit our side from mentioning GMOs. Now Judge Bolanos again cautioned that the issue of GMOs would be off limits. The judge warned us that our witness should not mention GMOs on direct or cross examination.

Next, Wisner sought to clarify the parameters within which our regulatory expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook, could testify about evidence that Judge Curtis Karnow had declared admissible in his pretrial rulings. The Monsanto case has followed a long winding path typical of large complex cases in California. The case survived an extensive pre-trial phase. In that phase, an appointed judge addresses the accumulation of documentary evidence, witness depositions, expert qualifications and determines whether the evidence and experts are sufficient for reasonable jurors to declare a defendant guilty.

This phase lasted more than a year and was overseen by Judge Karnow who handled all the pre-trial issues. Judge Karnow completed that assignment when he ruled that Dewayne Johnson had assembled enough evidence, including admissible expert testimony, to present to a jury. At that point, the Johnson case went into a trial assignment department, with a “package” of pre-trial documents and rulings on admissibility by Judge Karnow. San Francisco’s trial assignment department selected Judge Bolanos, a former prosecutor, to be the Johnson trial judge. Judge Bolanos received the set of Judge Karnow’s orders to implement or modify at her discretion during the Johnson trial. In general, Judge Bolanos’ rulings have seemed to us more friendly to the defense than Judge Karnow’s.

As the day grew longer, Judge Bolanos ruled that Dr. Benbrook could not offer any opinions or descriptions about a collection of Monsanto’s internal studies on Roundup’s health effects that are highly damaging to Monsanto’s case. We had hoped to show the jury these documents, which involve transparently deceptive statistical machinations designed to cloud the results of Monsanto’s own glyphosate research. One important internal study shows that glyphosate causes cancer in mice. Another internal Monsanto research study detailed higher human skin absorption rates of the herbicide than reported elsewhere.

We had intended to have Dr. Benbrook dissect these studies for our jury, but Judge Bolanos forbade that line of questioning saying, “I’m not sure how helpful the opinion of this category of expert is, frankly.”

Wisner’s team also tried to get Judge Bolanos to advise Monsanto’s counsel, George Lombardi, to stop his habit of angrily yelling at the witnesses at point blank range. Judge Bolanos said that she had not heard the yelling but nevertheless urged the attorneys on both sides to use their inside voices. A note from a juror the following morning made an identical complaint; she asked the judge to make Lombardi stop yelling.

Our teammate, Pedram Esfandiari of Baum Hedlund Law, next sought to prevent Monsanto from entering into evidence the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft findings on glyphosate’s carcinogenicity which purported to show that there was no proven association with cancer. That draft was created by Monsanto’s shill inside the EPA, Jess Rowland, the former head of the EPA’s pesticide division who was secretly working for Monsanto by concocting studies like this one.

Since we have been unable to explain to the jury Rowland’s scandalous story, we are anxious that they not see his handiwork and mistakenly assume that it is a product of an honest and deliberative agency process. Pedram argued that the draft EPA conclusion was unpublished hearsay and was therefore inadmissible. Judge Bolanos listened so intently and agreeably to Pedrams polemic that he was dead sure that he had her persuaded. Nevertheless, she denied his motion the moment he stopped talking. Judge Bolanos agreed that the EPA statement was inadmissible hearsay if Monsanto offered it to prove glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer. However, she ruled that Monsanto could nevertheless introduce the language to show Monsanto employees’ state of mind at the time the report was issued.

The Hearsay Rule prohibits admission of out-of-court statements offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. However, statements offered to demonstrate the “state of mind” of the speaker are not forbidden. Judge Bolanos’ ruling seemed to us unconventional because Monsanto employees did not author the document, therefore it doesn’t make sense to claim that the document reflected the employee’s state(s) of mind. Furthermore, Monsanto first saw the EPA document in 2016, long after Lee Johnson had stopped using Roundup. Monsanto’s state of mind at that time is therefore utterly irrelevant to this case.

Finally, Judge Bolanos rejected the plaintiff’s request to introduce documents summarizing International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) President Christopher Wild’s devastating rebuttal of Monsanto’s orchestrated propaganda campaign against IARC. We believed that this document should be admitted under the same rationale as Judge Bolanos admitted the EPA draft. After all, it illustrates Monsanto’s “state of mind” and is highly relevant to the issue of punitive damages. Judge Ramos did not agree.

On Thursday morning, Judge Bolanos slapped our side with yet another disappointing ruling. This time, she excluded mention of Monsanto’s “TNO dermal absorption” studies which found far higher rates of glyphosate and Roundup absorption through the skin than previously reported. Internal Monsanto emails revealed that Monsanto employees received the results of the study indicating that the increased dermal exposure was linked to cancer. Instead of pursuing this critical research, Monsanto’s Dr. William Heydens and his Monsanto cronies orchestrated the termination of the study claiming a non-existent discrepancy which they had contrived to avoid submitting the results to the EPA. This conduct also seemed directly relevant to punitive damages. Alas the jury will never hear this sordid tale.

These dark day rulings, while frustrating, all got jiu jitsu’d by the adept trial work of the plaintiff’s trial team by the end of a brighter Thursday.

On Thursday, July 26, day 12 of the Monsanto trial, my colleague, David Dickens of The Miller Firm, called toxicology expert, Dr. William Sawyer, to elucidate prior expert testimony on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate and how it caused “Lee” Johnson’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dr. Sawyer has studied the glyphosate literature since the 1990s. He swore that glyphosate alone is “clearly” carcinogenic, and that Monsanto’s practice of adding chemical surfactants “increase and enhance [Roundup’s] carcinogenicity.”

Dr. Sawyer testified that Lee’s job as Integrated Pest Manager for the Benicia School District required him to apply Roundup in ways that maximized his exposure. Unlike farmers who typically spread Roundup from designated machinery or a mechanical applicator pulled some distance behind an atmosphere-controlled closed tractor cab, Lee used an unregulated high-pressure truck sprayer, “Just one trigger would literally fill this courtroom with mist.” As a result, Lee was “heavily exposed” to Roundup.

Dr. Sawyer observed that Lee sprayed more than three times more Roundup per hour than the average individual in Monsanto’s premier safety studies. Dr. Sawyer uses Roundup occasionally himself and admitted that even his small backpack sprayer produced drift in the wind that worried him. He therefore modified the sprayer to produce a stream resembling a squirt-gun to reduce the aerosol effect so as to limit his own exposure—a safety precaution unavailable to Lee. Instead, gusts of wind and sprayer malfunctions frequently drenched Lee in Roundup.

Dr. Sawyer testified that the exceptional safety precautions taken by Lee to protect himself may have actually aggravated his exposure. Lee wore a Tyvek 400 suit, which he hoped would protect him from dangerous aerosols. However, Dr. Sawyer testified that Dupont designed and sold the Tyvek 400 not to exclude aerosols, but to shield against particulate matter, including toxic dust, from contacting the skin. Dr. Sawyer testified that his work for the U.S. Health Department and Toxicology Consultants and Assessment Specialists often required him to use the same Tyvek 400 suit as Lee at Superfund landfills and other “extremely dangerous sites,” when contaminated dust was an issue, “But I would never wear a suit like that in an instance where organic chemicals were in the air. It’s not designed for that.”

Dr. Sawyer said that the sometimes sweltering Tyvek suit actually amplified Lee’s exposure to Roundup. Glyphosate molecules easily penetrate the fabric where Lee’s sweat would act as a conveyor belt for the herbicide wicking it off the suit material and transporting it directly to his skin in an aqueous solution that made it more likely to infiltrate the skin directly through the vectors of his skin lesions.

“It’s rather strange,” Dr. Sawyer pointed out, “the actual label from Roundup and Ranger Pro does not require any suit.” Dr. Sawyer testified, “When [Monsanto] ran their own operator exposure study, they recommended waterproof jacket, pants, faceplate, et cetera. But none of that is on the warning of Roundup that was used by Mr. Johnson.”

Here are key highlights from the Monsanto trial based off of Robert F. Kennedy's daily entries: 

Day 1, July 9: opening statements

Here’s a link to the opening statement for the Plaintiff by Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman:

“This case really is about choice. It's about the right of every single person in this room to make a choice about what chemicals they expose themselves, their family or their children to…If you don’t warn, you don’t give someone the choice, and if someone gets hurt from that, or, God forbid, someone gets cancer, then I believe someone should be held responsible for that.”

Day 2, July 10: Did Monsanto suppress its own research?

On day 2 of the Johnson trial, the jury heard deposition testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Dr. Mark Martens. Johnson’s attorneys asked Martens why Monsanto decided to abandon research conducted in 1999, by Dr. James Parry, an independent toxicologist Monsanto hired as a consultant after deeming him a top expert in his field.

Dr. Parry’s research concluded that glyphosate and the Roundup formulation may cause genetic mutations, a potential precursor to cancer. According to Martens, Monsanto did not allow independent scientists to review Dr. Parry’s research for further study after it was received, nor did the company give Dr. Parry’s research to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Day 3, July 12: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses the tumors in glyphosate animal studies, and the EPA’s initial findings in 1985, that glyphosate is a “possible” human carcinogen

On day 3, Judge Suzanne Ramos denied attorney Brent Wisner’s request that epidemiology/toxicology expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, be permitted to share his opinions before the jury concerning the amount of glyphosate exposure the state of California has determined causes cancer.

Wisner argued that a previous ruling allowed Monsanto witnesses to testify about foreign regulatory decisions to not list glyphosate as carcinogenic, so it did not make sense to deny the plaintiff the opportunity to discuss California’s own regulatory decision to list glyphosate as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer.

Nevertheless, Dr. Portier testified that his analysis of 13 rodent studies on glyphosate, and the findings of  the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) led him to conclude that exposure to glyphosate causes NHL. Portier said:

“If you have multiple tumors of the same type in multiple species, it adds to the strength of causality. By seeing lots of different tumor types hit in the same animal, the more important it is to the human causal.”

Day 4, July 13: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses flaws with U.S. and EU regulatory Evaluations for glyphosate

On day 4, Monsanto counsel, Kirby Griffis, tried to rattle Dr. Christopher Portier during cross-examination, confronting the expert witness with the EPA’s conclusion that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. During testimony, Dr. Portier slammed U.S. and European regulators over their methodology in evaluating glyphosate.

For example, Dr. Portier testified that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) missed 15 tumors in a series of rodent studies on glyphosate because the agency used the wrong methodology. During cross-examination, he said:

“My entire career been about using scientific evidence to make decisions, primarily about the carcinogenicity of compounds, and we’ve worked for years and years to do that appropriately. This was just so amazingly wrong in the way they were doing it.”

Day 5, July 16: fireworks during cross-examination as Monsanto lawyer attempts to discredit expert witness

On day 5, as cross-examination continued Monday, Monsanto counsel Kirby Griffis accused cancer expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, of basing his opinion that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer on lucrative consulting contracts from law firms and not on scientific evidence.

“You said EPA was ‘so amazingly wrong;’ EFSA was ‘so amazingly, astonishingly wrong.’ ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) got one thing right,” Griffis said, attempting to poke holes in Dr. Portier’s prior testimony about U.S. and European regulators’ evaluations of glyphosate.

Undaunted, Dr. Portier responded: “It’s absolutely clear they’re not using [their guidelines] appropriately.”

During redirect, Dr. Portier also pointed out that a reassessment report for glyphosate conducted by a German agency that participated in EFSA’s review of glyphosate, contained verbatim passages written by herbicide manufacturers.

Day 6, July 17: Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson called Monsanto to ask if using Roundup caused his skin rashes, later diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma

On day 6, Monsanto executive Dr. Daniel Goldstein attempted to rebut plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s allegation that he failed to tell him whether exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused him to develop skin rashes over a significant portion of his body.

In his lawsuit, Johnson alleges he developed cancerous lesions on his body after using Roundup between 2012 and 2015, as part of his groundskeeper job, including two instances where he was drenched in the weed killer.

The jury saw video testimony from Dr. Goldstein, who was asked whether he returned calls that Johnson had made to the company in 2014, asking if exposure to Roundup created the widespread lesions all over his body.

Dr. Goldstein testified that he did not recall speaking to Johnson, though an internal Monsanto email shows that he intended to call Johnson.

“It would certainly be helpful to have spoken with him, and I don’t recall whether I did,” Goldstein testified.

Day 7, July 18: Tempers flare as Monsanto lawyer becomes visibly frustrated with cancer expert, Dr. Alfred Neugut

On day 7, oncology and epidemiology expert Dr. Alfred Neugut of Columbia University took the stand and things got a bit heated during his cross-examination. At one point, Monsanto attorney George Lombardi gave the court an inaccurate characterization of a statement Dr. Neugut had made. Dr. Neugut yelled back to Lombardi to stop “misquoting” him.

Another highlight was Dr. Neugut’s dismissal of the Agricultural Health Study, which Monsanto routinely points to as conclusive proof that glyphosate is safe. Like other expert witnesses for the plaintiff, Dr. Neugut told the jury about several key flaws with the study, including the imputation of data to make up for poor follow-up among the study’s subjects, which rendered the study a “throwaway.” Dr. Neugut said:

“You use imputation when you’ve got a screwed-up study with poor follow-up. Unfortunately, this is a case of measurings—with a gold scale, where it turns out the results just don’t turn out to be what they should be because there are so many problems.”

Day 8, July 20: Plaintiffs oncologist testified that exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma”

On day 8, the court heard from Cardinal Health oncologist and physician, Dr. Chadi Nabhan, one of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s medical witnesses. Dr. Nabhan testified that Lee Johnson’s exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.”

One of Monsanto’s points of emphasis during the Johnson trial is how long it takes for cancer symptoms to manifest after exposure to a carcinogenic agent. Lawyers for the agrochemical giant say it takes 20 years, which would eliminate Roundup exposure as the cause of Mr. Johnson’s NHL.

Dr. Nabhan, however, told the jury that cancer symptoms can show in just one month. “There is no agreed-upon latency period with these types of exposures and these types of cancers,” said Nabhan, who specializes in lymphomas. “Some patients can develop the disease early on and some patients can develop it in 20 years.”

Day 9, July 23: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson testifies he “never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm”

On day 9, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and his wife, Araceli, took the stand and gave the jury a heartbreaking glimpse at how their lives have changed since Lee’s cancer diagnosis.

During her testimony, Araceli recalled when Lee first told her about his diagnosis. “I couldn’t believe it. My world just shut down,” she said, adding, “I only cried at nigt... it was very hard.”

In order to make a dent in the family’s rising medical bills, Araceli took a second job working 14-hour days while shuttling her two sons an extra 45 minutes to Napa Valley School District in hopes of providing them better educational opportunities.

When Lee took the stand, he testified in agonizing detail how he tried to hide the pain of his diagnosis from his family. “I’m trying to show my kids an example of how to deal with things and crying is not going to help you,” he said. “But I’m raising two little boys, so I’m teaching them to deal with pain and learn to deal with it and to deal with a situation if it comes to you. And sitting around sorrowful and crying is not going to help.”

Mr. Johnson also made it clear that he never would have used Roundup if he had known it causes cancer.

“I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm,” Mr. Johnson said in court on Monday. “It’s unethical, it’s wrong. People don’t deserve that.”

Day 10, July 24: Secret documents reveal Monsanto’s war on cancer scientists

On day 10, the jury heard video testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Donna Farmer, who leads the chemical company’s deceptively named Product Safety Center.

Getting Farmer to testify proved to be a challenge. When our legal team sent a process server to subpoena her testimony, Farmer was observed fleeing through a backyard fence of her St. Louis home. We had the block staked out and successfully served the summons.

In her deposition, Farmer adamantly denied that her role at Monsanto was to protect Roundup until she was confronted with an internal company document showing that, in fact, her “number one goal is to defend and maintain the global glyphosate or Roundup business.”

Under questioning from attorney Mike Miller, Farmer admitted that her primary concern was regulatory compliance rather than public health, acknowledging that she orchestrated the ghostwriting of articles for supposedly independent scientists who agreed to defend glyphosate.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a longtime environmental advocate and author of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family. He is co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertKennedyJr. Like him on Facebook.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

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New York State Looks to Expand BPA Ban to Substitution Chemicals

Organic consumers - Sat, 2018-07-28 19:01
July 25, 2018Environmental Health NewsBrian BienkowskiHealth Issues bottle.png

Bill would prohibit BPA look-a-like compounds—like BPS—in children's products beginning next year 

The New York State Assembly has put forth a bill than bans BPA substitution chemicals in children's products.

The bill, which has been referred to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation, would expand existing legislation that prohibits the sale of child care products that contain bisphenol-A. It comes in response to studies that have reported many BPA substitution chemicals are just as harmful—if not more so—than the chemical they're designed to replace. 

The ban would expand to include: bisphenol AF (BPAF), bisphenol Z (BPZ), bisphenol S (BPS), bisphenol F (BPF), bisphenol AP (BPAP) and bisphenol B (BPB). 

BPA—used to make plastic hard and shatterproof and to extend the shelf life of canned food—can leach out of products. Studies routinely show that more than 90 percent of people have traces of the chemical in their body.

BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it messes with the body's hormones, potentially at very low levels. In both animal and human studies the chemical has been linked to multiple health impacts in exposed babies and children—including obesity, asthma, low birth weights and genital defects. 

In recent years scientists have warned that substitution chemicals are increasingly being used in "BPA-Free" products and that they may carry some of the same health risks. 

The bill, sponsored by Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) who chairs the NY Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, pointed to a September 2017 study that found the six BPA alternatives all mimic estrogen in breast cancer cells; three of them more so than BPA itself. 

"The plastics manufacturing industry have turned to alternative bisphenols to produce their 'BPA-free' products, often with little toxicology testing," wrote the authors of the study.

Michael Antoniou, a researcher at the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King's College London who led the study, told EHN of the bill's expansion: "We're delighted that the implications of our findings showing potent estrogenic effects from BPA alternatives is leading to legislative change to better protect at least children from these chemicals."

The new bill amends the "Bisphenol A-free Children and Babies Act", which was passed in 2010. In justifying the change, lawmakers wrote: "This legislation will help eliminate child exposure to these potentially harmful hormone-like chemicals and help prevent adverse substitutions to BPA." The change is scheduled to take effect December 31, 2019

The bill would put New York out in front of federal policy. In response to Antoniou's 2017 paper the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the study "'highlight the need for testing of replacement chemicals prior to their introduction into commerce to demonstrate that they are safer than the chemical being replaced." 

However the feds haven't taken any action on replacement chemicals. 

"This is how policy should be shaped, based on the latest solid scientific evidence, which our work provides. We hope other states and nations will follow the example of New York and enact similar laws," Antoniou said. 

Posted with permission from Environmental Health News.

U.S. Grassfed Meat Producers Need Your Help—Act By Midnight August 17

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-07-27 20:01
Category: All About OrganicsArea: USA

If you think meat labeled “Product of U.S.A.” should come from cattle actually raised in the U.S.—not imported from other countries—you’re not alone.

The American Grassfed Association (AGA) and the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) have submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking that the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services Agency change its labeling policy so that imported beef can no longer be labeled “Product of U.S.A.” just because the meat passed through a U.S.-based inspection plant, or was blended with meat from cattle actually born and raised in the U.S.

TAKE ACTION BY MIDNIGHT AUGUST 17: Sign the petition to help U.S. grassfed meat producers stop foreign meat from being labeled “Product of U.S.A.”Read more