“Wisner got Mucci to concede she did not include these statistically significant doubling-of-the-risk rates in her presentation to the jury.” RFK, Jr.
“The closing arguments will probably be August 7 or 8 or 9, and the verdict we hope will be rendered by August 10.” RFK, Jr.
Monsanto's Herbicide Expert Has Bad Day in Court
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?”
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.”
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!”
Neil Young and Daryl Hannah at Monsanto Roundup 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.”
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:...https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/neil-young-daryl-hannah-monsanto-roundup-trial
Monsanto Pays Harvard Wizard $100k to Perform Statistical Magic Show for Jury
f 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?”
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?”
Wisner: “And you list all these different known human carcinogens that have inadequate or limited data, correct?”
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?”
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?”
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:...https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/kennedy-monsanto-expert-roundup-trial
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. – The Case Against Monsanto and Glyphosate By Kent Heckenlively, J.D.
(Kent, as you may recall cowrote the book, “Plague” with Dr. Judy Mikovits.)
Kent: Robert, I’m somewhat familiar with the Monsanto case and you said you wanted to talk about it. I’m familiar with glyphosate, and DeWayne Lee Johnson, so where do you want to start with telling people about the case and its importance?
Robert: Monsanto is a global chemical company that has recently been acquired by Bayer. Its biggest product is Round-Up and Round-Up has now become the dominant herbicide used all over the globe. The use of Round-Up is coterminous and synergistic with the development of GMO seeds and GMO crops. And many people don’t understand when they talk about GMOs that most of the GMOs in the world are “Round-Up ready” crops.
They’re crops that were developed, not to produce greater amounts of food more efficiently, but rather the insertion of a gene that allows them to resist the Round-Up herbicide. And that allows farmers to make the crop, whether it’s wheat or soy or corn, immune to Round-Up and allows the farmer to saturate the landscape with Round-Up and glyphosate. And literally kill everything but that Round-Up resistant crop.
Robert: In recent years, for the first time, Round-Up is actually being sprayed on food. Because Monsanto has encouraged farmers to use Round-Up not just as an herbicide, but as a desiccant. Many crops become wet just before harvest.
Kent: They need to dry them out. That’s the desiccation process.
Robert: In order to dry them out they spray them with Round-Up and it dries the crop out. So actually the residues on food are dramatically increasing.
Now Round-Up is in our water and our food and women’s breast milk, in our bodies, in virtually every meal you eat, unless you’re very careful to eat only organic food. And it’s ubiquitous.
Round-Up has also been used by home gardeners and landscapers and Monsanto has routinely told those customers that Round-Up is safe enough to drink. And that it has no impact on human health. Most of our clients, well, I’m part of a small group of lawyers that has eight hundred cases. There are other lawyers that have thousands of cases in the pipeline. And most of those cases are home gardeners or landscapers.
And the exposures to those people are much higher because farmers when they spray Round-Up, usually spray it from dedicated machinery that’s towed behind the tractor or combine – A tractor-combine with a climate controlled cab. They go to great lengths to avoid Round-Up.
The home gardeners are usually spraying it from a backpack sprayer and those sprayers often leak. They often create an aerosol mist and the Round-Up gets on your skin.
And skin contact is actually worse than eating it. Because Round-Up has a surfactant that inclines it to stick to the skin and then to penetrate it. Skin contact is by many indications, much worse than eating Round-Up in residues on food.
The case of DeWayne Johnson which we are now trying in San Francisco is a historically significant case because it is the first case in which the question of whether Round-Up and glyphosate is carcinogenic, has ever made it in front of a jury.
Kent: How long has it taken you to get the case to trial?
Robert: Around two years. And it’s in a California court because it’s sold by a distributor, which is a Monsanto partner, which is located in California. So it gave the California courts jurisdiction over this case. And the case is significant financially for Monsanto, a six-billion-dollar company, and it’s just been acquired by Bayer.
If we get a large award in this case, it could easily threaten the future financial viability of the company.
Not only that, but the discovery documents that we’ve gotten during this case have so alarmed the European countries, that many of them are now de-licensing glyphosate and Round-Up, or deliberating on whether to ban it completely.
The documents we’ve gotten were not only new documents in which the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), two years ago, declared that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen and that’s what triggered a lot of these cases. California has adopted that finding in proposition 65 and declared that Round-Up has to warn people that it’s a probable human carcinogen. And that finding by IARC triggered all of these cases. The injury that IARC says is probably caused by Round-Up is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The people we represent are thousands of plaintiffs who claim that they got their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma due to exposure to glyphosate. And the jury verdict in this case, if it’s a large verdict, will affect the viability of this company.
Now I’ve been fighting Monsanto for many, many years. My first cases in the Hunt’s River were against PCBs from manufacturing. In recent years I’ve been suing Monsanto because Monsanto sold PCBs for use in a window caulking material that was primarily used in schools.
And about half of the schools that were built after 1950 have Monsanto’s PCB caulking which in hot weather is released and ends up in the students. It’s a very potent endocrine disruptor that affects cognitive performance. I’ve sued them on that, and of course, Monsanto is associated with many other bad chemicals, including most notoriously, Agent Orange.
It is regarded as one of the premier villains by the environmental community. Neal Young did an entire album about Monsanto because they’ve done so much to harm our food supply, our family farms in our country, and public health.
Kent: Yes, there’s a great community movement against Monsanto and certainly glyphosate is a huge problem. Does Monsanto have enough chemicals that actually work and are not harmful to the environment to sustain itself?
Robert: I don’t know. I assume the structure of the company will have to change dramatically. It will certainly have to warn people about its herbicide. You can look it up, but I think it’s about 80% of the revenue of the company. The company is not that big a company. It’s only $6.6 billion dollars. It was purchased by Bayer and I don’t know if Bayer is going to end up liable for all of these damages.
Kent: How big of a problem do you think glyphosate is in our environment?
I picture the idea of somebody who truly cared about the environment being in power and saying this chemical is causing 10% of the problem, this chemical is causing 25% of the problem. In your opinion, how large a problem is glyphosate in our environment?
Robert: I think it’s a terrible problem. There are animals that are going extinct like the Monarch butterfly. It’s likely to go extinct. There are animals going extinct, including very visible, high-profile animals like the Monarch butterfly because of the ubiquitous use of glyphosate.
Then, of course, there was a study that came out the other day that shows it destroys the DNA in human blood.
Kent: Good Lord!
Robert: It is an endocrine disruptor. The use of it is so ubiquitous and then it goes hand in hand with the GMO seeds and we’re developing a global homogeneity in our seeds that is not good for diversity.
Kent: How has the trial been going regarding you being able to present the evidence you believe is important?
(Author’s note – Most people don’t realize the critical importance of a judge in allowing certain evidence to be presented to the jury or kept away from them. When a verdict is returned which strikes many as unjust, the jury is often blamed. But it can also be the result of the judge not allowing the jury to see critical evidence. The jury can only decide based on evidence which has been presented to them.)
Robert: There is a lot of evidence that we would like to bring in that we have not been able to bring in. The judge has run a very strict courtroom and we have not agreed with all of the decisions on the admissibility of evidence. We think in other trials we will be able to introduce other evidence which was not allowed to come in.
Even hamstrung as we’ve been during this trial I think the case is so strong the jury has enough information to render a verdict in our favor.
The closing arguments will probably be August 7 or 8 or 9, and the verdict we hope will be rendered by August 10.
Kent: That’s coming up.
Robert: And just to tell you about DeWayne Johnson, he was the groundskeeper for the Benicia School District. He’s a very hard-working African-American. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was forty-two. He’s married to a very beautiful Mexican woman who fell in love with him when they met at Napa Valley College in an algebra class. They have two kids. She works fourteen hours to pay for his medical bills and two jobs and they bring their children forty miles to another school district where there’s a higher quality school.
The kids are wonderful kids. One of them wants to be a chemist, he’s an A student. The other one is an athlete. And this guy is really hard-working, competent, resourceful, and a very charming guy. He was wonderful on the stand.
Kent: I have a couple more questions and these are more general. How many other cases are you bringing against Monsanto for glyphosate?
Robert: Me and my group have eight hundred cases.
Kent: I don’t know that kind of law. Do you bring each one of those individually or combine them?
Robert: We bring each one of them individually.
Kent: And what you’re hoping for is in the first couple cases you can get large verdicts and then you can settle the rest of them?
Kent: It seems like in the 1960s and 1970s we had some wonderful environmentalism and then during the 1980s and 1990s it went away.
Where is our environmental movement from the right and the left? Because it seems like it’s dead on both sides.
Robert: It’s not dead, but industry is so powerful. The EPA has become a captive agency, it’s become an arm of the pollution industry. The Koch brothers spent a billion dollars in the last election. Most of the Republicans on Capitol Hill have a 0% voting record from the League of Conservation Voters. The Republican party has become an arm of the oil industry. And the oil industry and the pharmaceutical industry are big industries. The Democratic party, which accepts a lot less money from the polluters, still has problems.
I’d say that the Republicans are virtually 100% corrupt and the Democrats are probably at about 80% corrupt.
There’s a grass-roots environmentalist movement, but unfortunately, the Citizens United case, industry controls our democracy and they’ve turned it into a corporate kleptocracy. There’s very little governance on behalf of the public. The governance is all about defending the interest of special interest groups.
Kent: I’ve wondered, Robert, if this is something unique in our history. Because we’ve never had a situation where the message is that these products are safe and yet they’re causing tremendous harm. I think of smoking as an example. People knew it probably wasn’t great for them and it wasn’t the best thing in the world. I think of it in those terms.
I’m a science teacher and I’m a clean-cut, short-haired, older white male, more conservative than liberal, and I try to talk to my fellow science teachers about the problems with GMO foods. And they’d identify themselves as politically liberal. But when I start talking about the problems with GMO foods, they look at me like I have three heads, as if I’m saying the Earth is flat.
And I’m just saying the proper science needs to be done and the proper risk assessment needs to be made. I’m finding this reaction across the political spectrum. Nobody wants to have the conversation.
Robert: GMOs are kind of sui generis because people don’t really understand that “GMOs mean pesticides.”
They think of GMOs as breeding corn with extra kernels on it, and who’s against that? They don’t understand that 90% of the GMOs in the world are Round-Up ready crops.
I think there’s a widespread environmental ethic when people understand the issues. The message control by industry and the political control and the regulatory control system is virtually complete. The environmental laws we do have are seldom enforced because industry has captured the agencies which are supposed to protect Americans from large corporations.
You ask if this has happened before. And I would say, yeah, it happened before in the Gilded Age. During the Gilded Age democracy ended. You had virtually the entire United States Senate being chosen by a tiny handful of corporations, mainly based on the Rockefellers. You did not have direct election of Senators. They were chosen by the legislatures and the legislatures were completely bought and paid for by the trusts. The oil and sugar and steel and the rail trusts. It was no income tax and the wealthy classes had complete power and you had a big gulf between rich and poor.
In the early part of the last century you had the populist movement in the countryside and the progressive movement in the cities. You had muck-racking journalists who started exposing these corrupt relationships between industry and government and you had Teddy Roosevelt who came along and made it so the unions could organize, they made a five day work week, an eight hour workday, and they ended child labor. They passed all these food safety laws, Sinclair Lewis, the writer, highlighted many of these problems, and they passed a graduated income tax and they passed the Sherman anti-trust Act.
They passed a law in 1907 making it illegal for corporations to give to political campaigns. And that law stayed more or less intact until the Buckley v. Vallejo case in 1975 and then a complete destruction of any kind of campaign finance reform from the Citizens United case.
And now our campaign finance system is just a system of legalized bribery and the big corporations own our country.
Kent: And I find it staggering that we’re supposedly in the information age, which means there should be a wide diversity of viewpoints, that we have this message control that works on the population itself. It’s almost as if we’re policing ourselves in our own minds.
I spent two years as the health and safety chairman for my school district and I’d try to bring up the vaccine issue. And these were not people who are connected to the pharmaceutical industry. But these people are convinced I am saying things that are dangerous and harmful to children. And I feel like I’m living in a weird time when we’re supposed to be so free, and yet people confine themselves to a narrow set of acceptable opinions.
Robert: Yeah. Thanks a lot for what you’re doing, Kent. Keep plugging.
Kent: Thank you so much, Robert.
Robert: Thank you.http://bolenreport.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr-the-case-against-monsanto-and-glyphosate/