(March 7, 2019) Monsanto’s Roundup likely caused a California man’s cancer, a pathologist testified in a federal courtroom yesterday. Dorothy Atkins reported for Law360 that the pathologist testified that it is “more likely than not” that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer poison caused a man to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The testimony refuted Monsanto’s claim that hepatitis C, weight, and age caused the (now 70-year-old) plaintiff’s cancer.
Dr. Dennis Weisenburger explained to jurors in San Francisco that plaintiff Ed Hardeman was treated for hepatitis C within a year of contracting it. Dr. W. said that early treatment significantly reduced Mr. Hardeman’s risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma from the virus. Dr. Weisenburger also testified that any cells damaged by the Hep-C virus would have died off when the man was cured of that disease in 2006. He rejected Monsanto’s claim that Mr. Hardeman’s 2015 NHL diagnosis was caused by hepatitis.
NHL Diagnosis Nine Years Too Late for Monsanto
“If he was going to get lymphoma, he would have gotten it when he had the infection, not nine years after he was cured,” Dr. Weisenburger testified.
Dr. Weisenburger is one of the last experts to testify before Mr. Hardeman’s attorneys rest the first part of his case in the controversial bifurcated trial arrangement which District Judge Vince Chhabria agreed to assemble at the request of Monsanto’s attorneys and against the strong objections of the plaintiff’s side.
Arcane Bifurcated Arrangement Censors Plaintiff’s Side
In the arcane “bifurcated” arrangement of this first federal trial in the Monsanto Roundup litigation, the plaintiff’s side may not bring to the jury’s attention any of the mountain of evidence which shows Monsanto’s behind-the-scenes moves to censor or attack any research or organization deemed a threat to Monsanto profits. That arrangement severely handicaps the plaintiff’s side. One cannot fairly present Monsanto’s brand of “science” without simultaneously showing how the company manipulates it, promotes the views of its own paid scientists, and attacks with its well-paid media minions any scientist or organization that questions Roundup safety.
Bifurcation in this case means that the jury will not hear about any of Monsanto’s behind-the-scenes manipulations unless the jury first rules, solely on the basis of “scientific” grounds, that Roundup caused Mr. Hardeman’s NHL. Without any doubt, censoring all the damning information that we now know about Monsanto’s real actions to manipulate science and public opinion decidedly favors the company. It allows Monsanto lawyers to repeat the company’s default defense that “hundreds of studies” prove Roundup is safe enough to drink, or that Roundup is as safe as table salt (a false, claim along with many others, that Monsanto was forced to retract in New York state. Because virtually all of those Monsanto studies were short-term and were virtually all sponsored by Monsanto, the WHO refused to include them in its evaluation which concluded in a 2015 assessment that Roundup is a probable human carcinogen.
The Monsanto Papers
A mounting pile of evidence from internal documents revealed in “The Monsanto Papers” and elsewhere has shown how Monsanto propaganda clouds and poisons – like mustard gas in WWI trenches – the worldwide fight over Roundup. Monsanto or its proxies have been shown to manipulate news outlets like Reuters, Newsweek, Fortune, and others around the world; email secretly with EPA regulators to derail or influence Roundup safety studies; hire bloggers to attack anyone or any organization that questions the safety of Monsanto’s products; entice academic ghostwriters and blogger goons to put their names on pro-GMO propaganda; move Monsanto employees through a revolving employment door between the FDA and the company, compromising regulatory agencies with industry monies.
Ed Hardeman’s case is the first to go to trial where hundreds of similar lawsuits have been filed in the multidistrict litigation court overseen by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria. Claimants all share the same injury, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and all claim that injury resulted from their exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger Pro herbicides, which are classified as pesticides by EPA.
Mr. Hardeman testified on March 5, 2019 that he used Roundup to kill weeds and poison oak on his 56-acre property in Santa Rosa, California. He said he used it for 25+ years, between 1986 and 2012. The spray’s mist often fell on his skin and face, he testified. Mr. Hardeman was diagnosed at age 66 with stage 3 cancer on Feb. 14, 2015. He has undergone cancer treatment.
Dr. Weisenburger, who took the stand March 6, has published more than 50 research papers on causes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He noted during his direct examination that less than 1 percent of patients with chronic hepatitis C develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 10 years. He said those patients have a “much higher” risk of getting liver cancer. He said that age and being overweight are minor risks for developing NHL. He added that obesity increases the risk of getting the cancer by 30 percent “at most.”
Monsanto Attorneys Cross Examination
In cross-examination, Monsanto’s attorney, Brian L. Stekloff, tried to discredit Dr. Weisenburger’s testimony. Mr. Stekloff asked him what doctors and pathologists know about the biological impact of having hepatitis for decades.
Dr. Weisenburger said there’s no way to tell by looking at a damaged cell if the damage is due to Roundup exposure. He further conceded that the “vast majority” of patients’ diagnosed with NHL don’t get it from Roundup exposure. The doctor also admitted that he could not completely rule out that Mr. Hardeman’s decades-long chronic hepatitis B could have contributed to his NHL.
Mr. Stekloff also tried to cast doubt on studies that showed links to Roundup exposure and NHL. He pointed out that test subjects who developed NHL were diagnosed a few years after Roundup came on the market in 1974, not 20 years later, which Dr. Weisenburger claims is the cancer’s latency period following Roundup exposure. However, Dr. Weisenburger responded that the 20-25 year latency period is just a guess, as it’s the median; so that all the test subjects in the studies at issue still fell within the bell curve.
Dr. Weisenburger also said he didn’t know the cause of cancer for 70 percent of the 1,000 NHL patients he has treated. But the pathologist said repeatedly that doctors don’t look at the history of patients closely. He said physicians often don’t know the cause of cancer, because they don’t pursue it in detail.
“Physicians don’t ask about Roundup,” said the pathologist. “They don’t even ask about pesticides.”
Monsanto’s own health assessment “will be inaccurate”
After Dr. Weisenburger’s testimony, Mr. Hardeman’s attorneys showed a video deposition clip of Monsanto’s corporate representative Bill Reeves. Mr. Hardeman’s attorney questioned Mr. Reeves about a 1997 letter from an in-house Monsanto epidemiologist who wrote that the exposure assessment in a decades long agricultural health study “will be inaccurate.” Monsanto has used the study to counter Mr. Hardeman’s allegations.
Mr. Wisner also pointed out a 1986 document in which the US EPA told Monsanto its mouse study testing the safety of glyphosate was based on insufficient data and needed to be redone.
The trial is expected to last into at least the middle of next week if Monsanto wins this first phase, and there will be no second phase for damages in the bifurcation arrangement if the plaintiff fails to win this first truncated round.
Though this is the first trial against Monsanto for Roundup in a federal court, there has been one previous Roundup trial in a state court, last summer in California. In that case last summer, a state jury hit Monsanto with a $289 million verdict. It was later slashed by tort reform to $78 million and is on appeal. Monsanto has yet to pay out any monies over Roundup.
The case is Hardeman v. Monsanto Co. et al., case number 3:16-cv-00525, and the MDL is In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:16-md-02741, both in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.