Related: Monsanto Lawsuit
Before jury selection gets underway in this first scheduled trial, Monsanto seeks to stop the Roundup litigation in its tracks by having the judge dismiss the case on the grounds that no science links Roundup with cancer. If Judge Chhabria were to rule that no credible evidence shows Roundup causes cancer, or that plaintiffs don’t have the right “experts” to prove up the cases, Monsanto could escape prosecution in some 350 cases in California, and, potentially, in all 3,500 cases filed against the company for Roundup cancer cases nationwide.
The arguments from both sides came in a six-hour hearing before Judge Chhabria, presiding over the federal multidistrict litigation, and California Superior Court Judge Iona Petrou, handling similar claims in state court. The experts testified that there was statistically significant evidence showing prolonged exposure to glyphosate – Roundup’s primary active ingredient – raises one’s chances of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
A hematopathologist employed at City of Hope National Medical Center testified that several epidemiological studies he examined showed glyphosate could double one’s chance of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dennis Weisenburger said that between those studies and several animal studies explained two possible ways glyphosate causes cancer. He said he was convinced of a correlation between glyphosate and the disease.
Glyphosate Genotoxic in Living Cells
Mr. Weisenburger said he synthesized all the information and weighed it as a whole. He said, “There’s good data to conclude exposure to glyphosate increases the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (There’s) a body of evidence that’s pretty compelling that glyphosate and its formulations are genotoxic in living cells.”
Monsanto has tried to have the case thrown out on a technicality concerning “expert” testimony. Law360 reported that Monsanto’s motion for summary judgment argues that the Roundup cases should be thrown out because “testimony proposed by six plaintiffs’ experts failed to meet the admissibility requirements for scientific evidence as set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Daubert standard.” Monsanto argued that the plaintiffs’ experts used “results-driven methods” to show evidence that links Roundup’s glyphosate with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Testimony: Glyphosate Doubles Cancer Risk
Dr. Beate Ritz testified at length. An occupational and environmental epidemiologist, she reviewed the validity of studies based on sample size, statistical significance and research biases. She lauded a famous Swedish study which found glyphosate doubles the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and also a Canadian study which found similar results for farmers exposed to Roundup more than two times per year.
A Monsanto attorney on cross examination pointed out that most of the studies Dr. Ritz referred to did not consider other possible pesticide exposures.
Judge Chhabria said, “This continues to be an issue for me. I still don’t understand how or why it would be a bad idea to adjust for other pesticide exposure.”
AHS Study Deeply Flawed
Dr. Ritz also attacked the Agricultural Health Study, a National Institute of Health analysis begun in 1993 which found no correlation between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in North Carolina and Iowa farmers. Dr. Ritz acknowledged some merits of the study, but said its glyphosate results were deeply flawed. She said the AHS first surveyed the farmers in the 1990s, but when NIH returned for an update years later, a third of the original farmers failed to follow up. She also said that glyphosate use was rare at the beginning of the study, but heavy by the follow-up date.
“The use of glyphosate changed mid-baseline,” she testified. “I have to downgrade the importance of the AHS study that otherwise, I really love. I just can’t take it seriously. All the other effects are drowned out in the noise of exposure misclassification.”
Roundup causes Cancer, Experts tell Judge
The AHS study was obviously on both sides’ minds as potentially pivotal in these cases. Monsanto’s VP of Global Strategy lauded it, telling Law360 after the testimony that AHS was “the largest epidemiological study of glyophosate ever.”
We haven’t heard the last word from the AHS study, or from Monsanto, or plaintiffs who believe their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caused by Roundup exposure.
Stay tuned. . .