(Feb. 27, 2019) A California judge running the first federal court trial in the Monsanto Roundup litigation ripped into a plaintiff’s attorney for her “composure” after he repeatedly interrupted her during her opening argument Monday. Judge Vince Chhabria (unpronounceable) interrupted the plaintiff’s attorney Amy Wagstaff over and over again as she attempted to open her client’s case for the jury. The judge later criticized her “steely composure” in responding to his interruptions, and finally he threatened to issue sanctions against the woman as well as her law firm.
Steely Composure proves actions in bad faith and intentional
Judge Chhabria said that Ms. Wagstaff’s actions were in bad faith and intentional. How did the judge know her actions were in bad faith and intentional? Because, the judge said, the woman showed “steely” composure in reacting to his interruptions.
(Editor’s Note: We relate this story directly from the record as it was reported by Dorothy Atkins for Law 360, a publication which, like Judge C., tends to weigh – and share – most evidentiary matters decidedly in favor of Monsanto.)
The judge’s prior ruling to bifurcate this Roundup cancer trial – at the request of Monsanto’s lawyers – was the clear catalyst for this messy opening scene of the first Roundup trial to be heard in a federal court. Judge Chhabria ruled before the trial began that it would proceed differently than the first trial, which didn’t work out well for Monsanto. The first Roundup trial last summer in California brought a former groundskeeper a $289 million verdict (later reduced to $78 million) against Monsanto, though that entire verdict is still (of course) on appeal.
For this second Roundup-Lymphoma trial and the first in a federal court, Judge Chhabria agreed with Monsanto lawyers to split the proceedings into two parts, the first for causation, the second for damages. In this rare and controversial (to say the least) setup, the jury will first hear only those arguments which relate directly to the science of causation. (That seems fair, at first blush, but wait and hear the whole story.) If, looking only at the causation “science,” the jury determines that Roundup caused the plaintiff’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, then they will also be allowed to hear – in a potential second phase of the trial – about some of Monsanto’s machinations to manipulate the “science” and propagandize to sway public opinion.
In the first trial, the jury was allowed to hear “the whole story” – both the plaintiff’s whole story and Monsanto’s whole story – from the start. Why did this judge decide to change that simple formula?
Science Divorced from Reality
While bifurcating the trial into two parts – divorcing the science from Monsanto’s behind-the-scenes manipulations – might seem like a fair approach in some sense, the overarching problem with the bifurcation ruling is that the science of Roundup safety cannot be divorced from Monsanto’s machinations to manipulate that “science.” And this is why we need to put that word in quotation marks the rest of the way. “Science” cannot be divorced today (if it ever could) from politics, or from the considerable money that works so hard to control “scientific findings.”
The jury in the first trial was able to hear, from the start, from the plaintiff’s attorney, the simple question: “If Monsanto’s Roundup is so safe and the science behind its safety is as strong as Monsanto says it is, then why did the company need to work so hard to ghostwrite articles for academics to sign; hire editors at ostensibly objective publications who could then work as gatekeepers to deny space to anyone showing the danger of Monsanto’s products; retract peer-reviewed and published information when it threatened Monsanto’s business model? Why did Monsanto need to secretly contact EPA employees and secure the quashing of safety studies? Why does Monsanto hire bloggers and internet trolls to attack citizen researchers who uncover evidence of the dangers of Roundup? Why does Monsanto continue to feed fake news to Reuters and other worldwide publications to defend its products and attack its detractors? Why does Monsanto spend millions of dollars to defeat food labeling bills?
The Impossibility of Bifurcation
Though this jury may never hear any of them, examples of Monsanto’s behind-the-scenes manipulations of “science” are legion. Just one case alone will serve to show just how Monsanto poisons the well of honest scientific discourse and research into the safety of its products.
Monsanto Manipulation and Dr. Giles Seralini
Monsanto’s work to discredit and neutralize Dr. Giles Séralini is instructive of how the biotech giant does business. Dr. Séralini found that Monsanto’s GM maize caused massive tumors in rats, and he published those findings in a peer-reviewed science journal. Rats from all over the world at the behest of Monsanto then attacked Dr. Séralini and his study, and a Monsanto minion secured an editorial post at the publication and then had the threatening paper retracted. That retraction then caused an uproar from honest scientists everywhere, so that the paper was then re-peer-reviewed and then re-published in another science journal.
A French Member of the European Parliament and France’s former minister for the environment, Corinne Lepage, explained that the Séralini study exposed the weakness of industry studies conducted for regulatory authorization. The GM maize had previously been judged safe by regulators around the world, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Institute for Responsible Technology
The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) explains that Dr. Séralini became the center of an “[E]pic struggle between independent science and corporate hegemony. The scientific journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, which first published his study, had retracted the article following an orchestrated campaign by thinly disguised biotech promoters. The article was later re-published in June 2014 in the journal, Environmental Sciences Europe.”
IRT notes also that another Monsanto minion of a scientist, “[F]ormer chairman of France’s Biomolecular Engineering Commission, Marc Fellous, was then exposed in a libel trial that he lost to Dr. Séralini just last year for using or copying Séralini’s signature without his agreement to argue that Séralini and his co-researchers were wrong in their reassessment of Monsanto studies. The Séralini team’s re-assessment reported finding signs of toxicity in the raw data from Monsanto’s own rat feeding studies with GM maize (corn).”
Monsanto Trial Judge rips Plaintiff Attorney’s “Steely” Composure
The Dr. Séralini story proves – definitively, and all by itself – that there is simply no way for U.S. federal Judge Vincent Chhabria, or anybody else, to “bifurcate” a trial that separates science and causation from Monsanto’s propagandizing machinations. Monsanto’s actions have proven again and again that science and propaganda are inextricably linked. That IS the story of Monsanto’s Roundup, and why any jury that hears these cases needs to be given both and all sides of the entire story, in order to decide for themselves what real “science” does and does not say.
Let us, the American people, hear the whole story, Judge. We’re as smart as you, and we deserve to hear the whole truth, and then decide for ourselves what is right, and what is not. The truth of Monsanto’s rat experiments on us all will not be silenced by you or anybody else.
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