“This case really is about choice. It’s about the right of every single person in this room to make a choice about what chemicals they expose themselves, their family or their children to…If you don’t warn, you don’t give someone the choice, and if someone gets hurt from that, or, God forbid, someone gets cancer, then I believe someone should be held responsible for that.” Glyphosate – is it a killer?
In light of the recent judgement against Monsanto regarding the probability of glyphosate directly causing the development of lymphoma, I felt it was necessary to comment on the facts within the case as well as the science surrounding it.
The ruling has generated mass hysteria, especially with the release of articles titled The Roundup Chemical Found Responsible for Cancer Might Also be in Your Cereal. But what is the truth about glyphosate – the active chemical in RoundUp. Is Monsato trying to kill us all with glyphosate?
Who Was Dewayne “Lee” Johnson
I think to develop a full scope of what transpired and why it transpired, it’s important to look at this from the beginning:
Dewayne Johnson was a groundskeeper for a school district in California for approximately 3 years. Part of his job description included Integrated Pest Management. He described his experience as spraying two materials: glyphosate and a citrus based insecticide.
Mr. Johnson was liable for purchasing, distributing, mixing, and applying Ranger Pro (41% AI Glyphosate with in-can surfactant).
In his testimony, Mr. Johnson declared that he wore a Tyvek suit, rubber gloves, rubber boots, and a face mask before and during distributing, mixing, and applying Ranger Pro.
According to court documents, Mr. Johnson had a stellar reputation as an applicator and as an employee.
Amid fulfilling his position as a certified applicator, Mr. Johnson experienced a hose rupture. His hose clamp that attached his spray hose to the hose barb disconnected and Mr. Johnson was forced to turn off the engine with the pump spraying the diluted material into the air.
He stated the diluted material got inside his Tyvek suit and down his body to his waist.
Shortly after, Mr. Johnson began to experience a “rash” like issue on the back of his knee.
Mr. Johnson placed a call to Monsanto to ask if RoundUp (Ranger Pro) causes skin irritation. Though the message was circulated in Monsanto’s offices, Mr. Johnson was never given a return phone call.
In August of 2014, Lee was diagnosed with epidermotropic T-cell lymphoma. In September 2017, a biopsy revealed mycosis fungoides (non-Hodgkin lymphoma with large cell transformation).
And Then There Was a Trial
When the initial judge was considering allowing the case to go to trial, the judge referred to the expert opinions as “shaky”:
“Citing expert testimony from three doctors who spoke on plaintiffs’ behalf, Chhabria wrote in his ruling, ‘the opinions of these experts, while shaky, are admissible.’”
Monsanto claims the jury’s decision was reached based on flamed emotional statements made during the trial:
“Monsanto also took issue with statements by Johnson’s lawyer, Brent Wisner, and some expert witnesses comparing Roundup to tobacco. Wisner told jurors the company would “pop champagne corks” if the verdict was too low.
He also said in court that a Monsanto unit made so-called Agent Orange, a highly toxic herbicide mixture used by the U.S. military 50 years ago in the Vietnam War. The harmful impact included cancers and birth defects.”
Yes, Agent Orange was a horrible thing that happened to US Service Members and those exposed to the herbicides overseas. If we look at Agent Orange, a combination of 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, and TCDD (byproduct), it wasn’t the exposure of the synthetic auxins, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, rather the byproduct of the production of 2,4,5-T – TCDD (we’ll come back to this later).
While this piece isn’t about synthetic auxin safety, it points the charged emotional correlation that was made between glyphosate and Agent Orange, and the potential drawn conclusion that glyphosate isn’t the issue, but what’s “in the can” that’s truly the issue.
Also, the issue at hand – non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – is a terrible, terrible disease. All cancers are horrible. Every single human alive has been touched by cancer at some point in their life. It’s not to say all cases concerning probable causes of cancer shouldn’t be heard, but rather, it’s the painted picture that this trial itself is emotionally charged.
The expert testimony at the trial relied on the WHO(World Health Organization)’s IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) report in 2015. The report concluded that: “glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic.’”
Using that as the spine of the argument, further expert testimony from Christopher Portier, who “was the external special adviser to the IARC working group that prepared their famous ‘glyphosate is probably carcinogenic’ decision,” helped bring the case to a close. Portier was allowed to testify that in his trials, “about 13 rodent studies that led him to conclude that glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans. Portier described one study where mice developed kidney adenomas, carcinomas, malignant lymphomas, and malignant tumors. Portier noted that some studies found tumors in tissue in which they didn’t belong. Portier said that the occurrence of this is so rare that ‘the causation argument — did this chemical cause this tumor — is very high.’”
Dr. Alfred Neugut was also brought to the stand as an expert witness for the plaintiff (Mr. Johnson). Dr. Neugut is a board certified MD and professor of epidemiology (College of Columbia, Columbia University). Epidemiology is an observational science used to draw relevance between one input and one result: ie. Exposure to glyphosate as it relates to the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As an expert witness, he was brought to compile a series of previously executed epidemiological studies relating glyphosate to NHL into a graphical Forest Chart. The results of the Forest Chart showed statistical significance – there is a link between glyphosate exposure and NHL.
The methodology for data analysis that these two experts implored was unbelievably complex. The majority of their testimony for the plaintiff was used to explain the exact steps they took to reach the conclusions they reached. Both Neugut and Portier relied on disproving the statistical significance of the largest cohort study conducted on herbicides – the Agricultural Health Study – because the sample pool of 50+ thousand participants had dwindled to 30 thousand participants in the decade long follow up.
This is where the science becomes blurred and the human influence on epidemiological studies becomes – well – subjective.
Under cross-examination, the defendant attorney quoted from the WHO (World Health Organization) Pre-amble – regarding the IARC report – the following:
“IARC evaluations can represent a first step in carcinogen risk assessments to be considered if available by national and national authorities such as EFSA when carrying out their own assessments. I agree that IARC carries out an important role in the treating assessment of the carcinogenic potential of agents. However, we should not compare this first screening assessment with a more comprehensive hazard assessment done by authorities such as EFSA, which are designed to support the regulatory process for pesticides in close cooperation with the member states in the EU.
EFSA’s assessment of glyphosate is an essential part of the EU regulatory system in relation to pesticides, widely regarded as one of the strictest in the world.
EFSA is of the opinion that the planning of a study before the initiation of the experimentation as established in the respective protocol, which includes the planned statistical analysis, is a key element in assessing the quality of the study. Therefore, deviations from the statistical analysis used by the study authors should be limited and properly justified
The EFSA recommendations are in-line with the OECD recommendations.
According to Mr. Johnson’s expert witness, the OECD is the Organization of Economic and Cooperative Development. It is an organization that many nations join to try to make things like pesticide review and pesticide evaluation kind of standard.
The OECD further recommends, quote:
Therefore, the statistical methods most appropriate for the analysis of the data collected should be established at the time of designing the experiment and before the study starts.
All of this is to point to the fact that Portier used two studies to draw data rather than the five studies put forth in the EFSA study. Monsanto’s argument is that 1. Portier deviated from the statistical analysis used in the study without being properly justified – violating the OECD guidelines for testing of pesticides. And 2. Using only two studies to draw data instead of the five total presented, violates statistical analysis protocol.
And due to the results of those two studies of data, Portier also believes that he has discovered tumors in the studies that the EFSA missed.
And as a follow up to the violation of statistical analysis protocol, the EFSA continued in their penned response to the IARC report:
As reported in the EFSA conclusion, there is very limited evidence for an association between glyphosate-based formulation and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and overall evidence is inconclusive for a causal or otherwise convincing associative relationship between glyphosate and cancer in human studies. There is no evidence of carcinogenicity in either rats or mice due to a lack of statistical significant in pairwise comparison tests. Lack of consistency in multiple animal studies and slightly increased incidences only at dose levels at or above the limit dose/MTD, maximum tolerated dose, lack of pre-neoplastic lesions and/or being within historical control range. The statistical significance found in trend analysis in non pairwise comparison per se was balanced against the former considerations. Considering a weight of evidence approach, taking into account the quality and reliability of all available data, it is concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic in vivo and does not require a hazard classification regarding mutagenicity according to the CLP regulation.”
The plaintiff’s expert witness draws significant ire with the EFSA response:
First of all, there is no such category in the CLP in their guidance document called “very limited evidence in humans.” So which is it? Is it limited evidence or is it inadequate evidence?
They’ve they’ve twisted their guidelines so that they’ve created a new category that nobody really knows what it means. And then as far as their five reasons, every single one of them is pretty much not recommended, I mean discouraged in their guidelines, and that’s in my expert report. I’ve walked through all of that. I’ m more than happy to go and look at it and bring it up to you, but this is — their five or six reasons are exactly the reasons we’re concerned about what they’re doing scientifically.
With this response, the Monsanto attorney points out that the expert witness disagrees with the EFSA, the EPA, and a subset of panel experts with the EFSA, the BfR. He also wants to clarify that the expert witness early stated the validity of the EFSA’s methods
- And you told us earlier that when the rapporteur issues a report like the renewal assessment report, EFSA does its own independent evaluation of that; correct? It doesn’t just say, okay, this is our conclusion now and cut and paste it?
- EFSA characterizes the peer review.
Now the defendant attorney brings up that Portier again contacts the EFSA to bring up the fact that they potentially missed a large number of tumors in their studies, to which the EFSA has another response:
In your letter you express the view that both EFSA and ECHA, E-C-H-A, failed to identify all statistically significant cancer findings in the chronic rodent carcinogenicity studies with glyphosate. To support this argument you refer to a reanalysis of eight specific tumor incidences reported in the original study reports from seven animal carcinogenicity studies. Having carefully assessed the reasoning behind the arguments you make, EFSA and ECHA confirm that the original assessments considered all relevant findings. Our detailed technical assessment you will find in the annex to this letter. We consider that none of the specific findings you bring forward are relevant for the hazard and risk assessment of glyphosate. In our view, the results of any statistical analysis and its related uncertainties have to be weighted for their biological relevance to arrive at a comprehensive toxicological evaluation of the substance at hand.
The tumors cited in the study, identified by Porter, were non-cancerous, of non-biological relevance.
But Portier is insistent that the ESFA, the BfR, and the EPA cannot conclude that glyphosate does not cause cancer because of his discovery of tumors.
The defendant attorney brings up that the AMES test was also analyzed by IARC and alludes that the finding there was not included in their statistical analysis.
The AMES test measures the genotoxicity of a substance by exposing a genetically mutated salmonella (that does not grow) with a genotoxic substance, to measure if the salmonella will genetically mutate back to its original state to begin growing again. The study states that if a substances can cause the genetic mutation back to growth mode, it is highly genotoxic and can be correlated as cancerous. Glyphosate tested as non-genotoxic in the AMES test (commonly used in the classification and labeling per EPA).
The defendant follows up with even more from ESFA regarding human trials, Paz-y-Mino 2007, Paz-y-Mino 2011, and Bolognesi 2009:
RAC, Risk Assessment Committee, notes that the results from the human genotoxicity studies are equivocal and that their overall interpretation is challenging due to the time between spraying and blood sampling from two weeks to two months, uncertain exposure estimates, and the combined exposures to glyphosate and co-formulas and other pesticides. RAC concludes that the data available is not sufficient to conclude that glyphosate is the factor likely to explain the association between glyphosate-based herbicides and higher incidences of micro nuclei in the studies where this has been observed. RAC concludes that based on the epidemiological data as well as the long-term studies in rats and mice, taking a weight of evidence approach, no classification for carcinogenicity is warranted.
And it’s here in the case that the analysis of all this data is beginning to make sense. There were instances of higher micro nuclei counts in humans. However, there was no control over the test data – other pesticides, length of exposure, combined exposure, co-formulas – so taking that into account as well as the studies in rats and mice (clinically dosed with glyphosate) and placing a higher weight on the rats and mice study (because the test parameters were controlled) but still affording weight to the human trials, no conclusion could be drawn that glyphosate is carcinogenic.
Remember, due to the prevalence of cancer, human trials show a cancer response of 1 out of 100 positives due to prevalence.
So, the epidemiological data, taking statistical standards into consideration between humans, and humans, rats and mice, still showed that glyphosate could not be correlated with cancer development.
Portier insists that the epidemiological data was not analyzed correctly and, as a result, this is why the RAC drew the conclusion they drew.
The attorney continues with cross-examination:
EFSA and ECHA, EFSA and ECHA, clearly state that the claim that findings were overlooked is false based on the transparent assessment procedure of European hazard and risk assessment, as well as the available scientific facts. All the original studies mentioned have been taken into account in the evaluations of the European authorities in accordance with their reliability and relevance and have been assessed on the basis of agreed scientific principles.
- And do you believe that that is a false statement?
- No. That’s a correct statement. It just is not a statement regarding what I actually challenged them on.
All the original studies on the toxicity of glyphosate cited by Christopher Portier in his letter to the president of the EU commission have been taken into account in the evaluation of the European authority in accordance with their scientific reliability and relevance and have been assessed on the basis of agreed scientific principles. This means that individual data on the specified tumor types and incidences that have now been additionally analyze by Christopher Portier using his own method were already known.
And I ’m going to pause. They mentioned individual data on the specified tumor types. And they would have had animal level data from those studies that you didn’t in doing their evaluation; is that right, sir?
They had — it was available to them.
Okay. And animal level data means the data on each individual animal, its feeding schedule –
I assume. I can’t — I can’t say.
That would be normal?
That would be normal.
So I ’ll continue reading. “Following” –
WISNER: Objection. I believe we had a hearing about this issue and I don’t believe the next sentence or the portions thereafter are admissible.
Reading that transcript was shocking – why were the next sentences or portions thereafter inadmissible?
Let’s take a look at “Glyphosate: EFSA and ECHA Response to Christopher Portier” picking up where the court left off:
All the original studies on the toxicity of glyphosate cited by Christopher Portier in his letter to the President of the EU Commission have been taken into account in the evaluations of the European authorities in accordance with their scientific reliability and relevance, and have been assessed on the basis of agreed scientific principles. This means that individual data on the specified tumour types and incidences that have now been additionally analysed by Christopher Portier using his own method were already known. Following their own evaluations using established, internationally recognised, standard toxicological methods, all assessment authorities worldwide who had access to these original data have reached the conclusion that glyphosate should not be classified as carcinogenic. These authorities include:
o The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as well as the experts and risk assessment authorities of the EU member states
o The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA
o The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA)
o The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)
o The Japanese Food Safety Commission
o The EPA in New Zealand
o The Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR)
o The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
Nothing exactly earth shattering there other than the fact that Europe, Japan, North America, New Zealand, Australia, have all come to the conclusion through independent evaluations, internationally recognized standards of toxicological methods came to the same conclusion.
More and more, I’m beginning to feel like this is a conspiracy case.
Most people can draw the ethical issues with Monsanto – owning the seed, owning the herbicide, and suing the farmers that try to replicate or “reuse” their seed (in lieu of purchasing fresh seed every year direct from Monsanto).
While it takes a serious level of intensity to remain that strict on your business offtakes, having the ability to manipulate the majority of the farming world, the massive scientific agricultural research community, and the data – that’s one hell of an undertaking. Grant it – Monsanto is a huge company, valued at $66bil after posting revenues of $14bil. But is that enough money to pay off the entire agricultural scientific world?
It’s at this point, the trial begins to take a turn again. The idea of the expert witness painting a “conspiracy approach” shifts towards the defense dissecting the testing practices exercised by Portier that ultimately lead to the idea of “conspiracy.”
A positive is a significant result when it is less than the normally used value of 0.05. A false positive is when you get a significant difference where none exists. As I mentioned above, the p-value is the chance that this data could occur given no difference exists. So, choosing a cut off of 0.05 means there is a 5% chance that we make the wrong decision.
The multiple testing problem
When we set a p-value threshold of, for example, 0.05, we are saying that there is a 5% chance that the result is a false positive. In other words, although we have found a statistically significant result, there is no difference in the group means. While 5% is acceptable for one test, if lots of tests are done on the data, then this 5% can result in a large number of false positives. For example, if there are 2000 compounds in an experiment and a t-test is applied to each, then we would expect to get 100 (i.e. 5%) false positives by chance alone. This is known as the multiple testing problem.
Multiple testing and the False Discovery Rate
While there are several approaches to overcoming the problems due to multiple testing, they all attempt to assign an adjusted p-value to each test or reduce the p-value threshold from 5% to a more reasonable value. Many traditional techniques such as the Bonferroni correction are too conservative in the sense that while they reduce the number of false positives, they also reduce the number of true discoveries. The False Discovery Rate approach is a more recent development. This approach also determines adjusted p-values for each test. However, it controls the number of false discoveries in those tests that result in a discovery (i.e. a significant result). Because of this, it is less conservative that the Bonferroni approach and has greater ability to find truly significant results.
Another way to look at the difference is that a p-value of 0.05 implies that 5% of all tests will result in false positives. A False Discovery Rate adjusted p-value (or q-value) of 0.05 implies that 5% of significant tests will result in false positives. The latter will result in fewer false positives.
In summary, the inclusion of multiple tests leads to an increase of false positives, and as a result, several techniques are applied to correct the number of false positives: Bonferroni correction (which also reduces number of true discoveries, or the False Discovery Rate adjusted p-value. Due to the potential of reduced true discoveries, the False Discovery Rate adjusted p-value is considered the appropriate application.
Which of these did the expert witness apply to his data set?
Those are the tests you did not run?
Those are the tests you did not run, false discovery rate, Bonferroni, et cetera; right?
Those are the corrections to the p-values I did not run.
Why? Why would the expert witness not consider false positives and execute the appropriate corrections?
According to Portier, the multiple tests were not categorized, and should have been, according to species and sex.
Diving further into it, Monsanto’s lawyer gets extremely technical regarding the studies performed. He cites case after case, study after study, methodology, and the testing body that reviewed the data. Portier agrees with each of the tests, each of the cases, but disagrees with the determined results. According to Portier, it wasn’t the quality of the test, it was the analysis of the data. His analyses drew different results than the analyses performed by the EPA, ECHA, FbR, EFSA, JMPR.
Portier specifically wanted to include results in the testing from dosages greater than what would be deemed “not possible.”
For example, the regulating bodies had determined 1000mg/kg of body weight was determine to be the “maximum potential dosage” – Portier wanted to include test data from exposure levels as high as 19,000mg/kg of body weight (crocodilian study) that were injected into the intraperitoneal region (region just beneath skin with highest concentration of blood vessels for immediate absorption – much higher than oral or dermal absorption). Again, the research community disregarded this data because the rates were extremely higher than what is possible to be exposed.
To further question to motivation of Portier to disqualify the data analyses from the governing bodies, Monsanto’s attorney’s turn the jury’s attention to an article in Agri-Pulse magazine. In an article titled “Oh Brother,” Portier and his brother, another Ph. D. researcher, conflict in their analyses of glyphosate data. In this article, Portier is quoted, “’Nobody has paid me a cent to do what I’m doing with glyphosate,’ he said, ‘have no conflict of interest whatsoever.” Unfortunately for Portier, this article was written and published after he had already been assigned as a paid consultant for Mr. Dwayne Johnson’s legal team. Obviously, this is brought up to paint the picture that Portier is acting on financial responsibilities rather than science. He is claiming to be reworking the glyphosate data analyses freely when, in actuality, he was under paid contract by a law firm preparing to sue Monsanto.
From the transcript, here is the quote from the trial transcript:
“While the quote comes after the EDF paragraph, it also is fairly broad, as it says nobody has paid you anything to do what you were doing with glyphosate.”
“Concerning that the EDF graph” — meaning paragraph — “notes that you have done no pesticide work for them, it seems clear to me that you are not talking about EDF, but about a hypothetical anyone else.”
“I looked back at my notes and you said nobody has paid me a cent in any way, shape, or form to do what I ’m doing with glyphosate. I have no conflict of interest whatsoever.”
“Either I conflated that without any ellipsis or my editor did, but that quote with any way, shape or form is actually more broad, it seems to me.”
And then the other question is: “Would receiving money from a law firm representing plaintiffs (suing Monsanto alleging that exposure to Roundup caused their NHL) constitute a conflict of interest that should be disclosed when submitting comments to EPA or testifying before a public body like the EU, for example.” And then he says: “I haven’t looked into the specific disclosure requirements in the EU.” Do you have an answer to that question?
The answer is yes. That’s why I disclosed them in both cases.
Unfortunately, in this instance (Agri-Pulse), Portier did not disclose them.
Monsanto attorney’s paint the picture that Portier stuck to the following rules: 1. Dispute all major governing bodies of chemical regulation and testing, and 2. Dispute the science based on data analyses of individual parts of individual studies.
After 8 grueling days of expert witness testimony and cross examination, the trial then turns towards the emotional impacts that cancer played upon the life of Mr. Johnson.
This also lasts 8 days. And it’s extremely painful. Mr. Johnson’s life has been decimated as he knows it – even though he took greater precautions than the rest of the applicator community.
I do not want to take away the suffering that Mr. Johnson will endure for the rest of his life, but I’d rather focus on the science behind the trial.
The science was not the determining factor in the trial.
To further explore the science behind glyphosate, let’s look at the following:
The article by EWG, Glyphosate in Children’s Cereal, states that glyphosate is found in dangerous levels – extreme levels, even. While this may read as truthful, showing amounts of glyphosate found in cereals, what’s not talked about is how that rate effects the human body. In reality, it doesn’t.
The EPA allows up to 140mg glyphosate/kg/day in humans. What was actually found was not only less than that, but was less than what the state of California allows: 14mg/kg/day in humans.
EWG took California’s rate of glyphosate considered safe and reduced it by 100x, so .14mg/kg/day in humans. And barely, just barely, did the cereals exceed this amount – and thus deemed “toxic.”
I will quote from Susan Matthew’s Slate Article:
The problem, as is always the case when considering toxicity, is dosage. Any substance’s potential to cause harm is directly related to how much of said substance you consume; at a high enough dosage, anything can be harmful, and at a low enough dosage, even “harmful” things can be consumed without causing harm. This is why regulatory bodies assess the threshold at which potentially harmful chemicals actually become dangerous and then set regulations for those thresholds.
The Environmental Protection Agency has done this for glyphosate, the chemical in the Monsanto weed killer Roundup that is at the center of the Environmental Working Group’s report. The EPA threshold, which was set in 1993 (so no Trumpian interference to worry about), is 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day (140 milligrams per day for the average adult). That’s the reference dose that’s considered safe to consume daily throughout a lifetime. None of the foods tested by EWG passes that threshold—they don’t even come close.
EWG, on the other hand, argues that the acceptable threshold is actually 0.01 milligram per day, total. That’s an extreme difference. So why did EWG lower the threshold so dramatically? The explanation is published, once again, on the EWG website. The organization arrived at its number by taking the state of California’s recommendation for a glyphosate threshold, already less than one-hundredth of the EPA threshold, and dividing it by 100 again. EWG justifies this second cut by relying on the Food Quality Protection Act, which suggests that an additional tenfold margin should be applied to pesticides to account for the increased risk to children and infants. (The Food Quality Protection Act doesn’t mention glyphosate once, and it’s not clear its recommendation is meant to apply to the EPA standard for the chemical, which is set to factor in body weight.) Even if you apply that extra tenfold factor to the EPA threshold, all the foods tested would still be safe.
This is a perfect example of the emotional charge that existed in the trial that also exists in the media. It’s simply scientifically inaccurate.
Portier worked alongside IARC as a “consultant.” Many times the methodologies and “labelling” determined utilized by IARC was called into question. As a result of pushback from the scientific community, they have been forced to re-evaluate their operation. As reported by American Council on Science and Health:
The preamble articulates the mission and methods of the IARC Monographs program and an update has been long overdue. The Monographs program has been embroiled in controversy brought on by questions regarding its assessments of cell phones, acrylamide, formaldehyde, red and processed meat, coffee, and the herbicide glyphosate. That last one may have been the last straw. The World Health Organization, of which IARC is a part, disavowed their methodology, as did many other health agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the European Food Safety Authority, and Health Canada.
Because of the liberal methodologies employed by IARC, it has fueled the motivation of media types to continue instilling fear into world regarding the use of glyphosate.
The Lawn Care Community
Why would I write this? I wanted to write this for the lawn care community because it’s the day to day applicators that face the most risk: exposure to pesticides, victims of media campaigns, and responsibility to maintain the safety of the environment and customer who pays for their services.
This trial, and result, is monumental because it shows that, regardless of scientific evidence, the emotion behind the victim, can pass blame onto whoever is in the sights of the victim.
I’ll give an example:
A lawn care applicator acquires a customer that is interested in having their crabgrass killed. The applicator makes the application on a Thursday, with a temperature of 82, a 3mph, no rain in the forecast, and asks the customer to stay off the lawn for 24 hours.
Two years later, the customer contracts a cancer and is certain that the cancer was acquired from the application treating the crabgrass.
The applicator followed every law. The safety of the herbicide has been proven many times over. But the customer is certain that the chemical chosen is the major contributor to the development of their cancer.
Who is liable? How does the applicator protect themself when the science is no longer a determining factor in deciding liability? How does the applicator finance the legal defense required to defend a $290mil trial?
This is the result of this trial – if it’s the emotion surrounding the devastation of cancer that determines liability, the applicator stands no chance, regardless of scientific data. And that is unbelievably scary.
I highly recommend we all spend an extra moment to educate our customers. It’s important to share the science. It’s important to understand the science. And it’s important to carry this into the field when we make decisions day in and day out that can affect our livelihood. This is our industry, this is our life – let’s be the experts our industry so desperately needs.
The science says glyphosate is safe.
The devastation of cancer is awful.
No one wins in the situation.