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

Monsanto Witness Admits Calculations Were Wildly Wrong

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: ...


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