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Farmers vs. Monsanto: Glyphosate Showdown Comes to U.S. Court in San Francisco

Get ready for a huge week in federal court in San Francisco where expert witnesses will face off on the science surrounding glyphosate, the world’s most widely used pesticide.

The outcome of the hearing, determined by U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria, will establish whether farmers and their families can proceed with legal action against Monsanto Co. over cancer concerns.

March 5-9 is being dubbed “science week” as the only evidence the plaintiff and defense legal teams will present is evidence that will be provided by experts in cancer science (see list below). According to the law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei and Golman, “the plaintiffs must demonstrate that they have scientific evidence to back their claims that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).”

There are more than 365 lawsuits pending against Monsanto in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. These lawsuits have been filed by people alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto knew the risks.

Want a front row seat at the hearing? Journalist and author Carey Gillam of U.S. Right to Know will live blog the event from the San Francisco courthouse and live tweet at @careygillam.

Plaintiffs’ Expert Witnesses

According to a press release, attorneys for the plaintiffs announced the following experts in order of scheduled appearance:

1. Dr. Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Ritz is the chair of the Epidemiology Department at UCLA, which is one of only a few positions specifically assigned to the Center of Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) mandated by the State of California to conduct research, teaching and service to communities in California on occupational and environmental health issues.

Dr. Ritz has doctoral degrees in Medicine and Epidemiology. She has authored  numerous toxicology publications lectures and  presentations. Dr. Ritz engaged in a systematic review of the literature in this case, utilized the Bradford Hill Criteria, and concluded that “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, glyphosate causes NHL. Furthermore, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, glyphosate based formulations, including Roundup, cause NHL.”

2. Dr. Dennis Weisenburger, M.D.

Dr. Weisenburger is chair of the Pathology Department of the City of Hope Medical Center. He specializes in the studies of the hematopoietic and immune systems, with a special interest in NHL that has spanned nearly 40 years. His study of the pathological mechanisms by which NHL develops began in the 1980s when he was directing large epidemiologic studies related to NHL.

Dr. Weisenburger has published more than 300 papers on NHL in peer-reviewed journals, and more than 50 papers on the epidemiology of NHL, including studies on glyphosate and NHL. Dr. Weisenburger engaged in a systematic review of the literature in this case, utilized the Bradford Hill Criteria, and concluded that to “a reasonable degree of medical certainty that glyphosate and GBFs (including Roundup) can cause NHL in humans exposed to these chemicals in the workplace or environment.”

3. Dr. Alfred Neugut, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Neugut is a practicing medical oncologist, a professor of cancer research and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University, and associate director for Population Sciences for the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Neugut was awarded the Myron M. Studner Professorship in Cancer Research in the Department of Medicine. He is also the Director of Junior Faculty Development for the Department of Epidemiology, overseeing about 30 assistant professors. Dr. Neugut has published over 500 articles in medical journals dealing primarily with carcinogenesis of various agents and compounds.

Dr. Neugut engaged in a systematic review of the literature in this case, used the Bradford Hill Criteria, and concluded that “epidemiologic and scientific evidence currently available leads to the conclusion to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty for most expert, objective, and reasonable viewers, myself included, that the use of glyphosate in its various combinations can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”

4. Dr. Charles Jameson, Ph.D.

Dr. Jameson completed a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry in 1975 at the University of Maryland. He has worked for National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a senior chemist for the NCI's Rodent Bioassay Program where he served as chief chemist, directing all chemistry activities and participating in the development of all two-year rodent bioassays while also serving as secretary for the NCI's Chemical Selection Working Group.

Dr. Jameson also served as program leader for the National Toxicology Program at the NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for 12 years, during which time he was listed as a contributor to over one hundred chemical peer reviewed bioassay studies. Dr. Jameson worked on the NTP's Report on Carcinogens (RoC) for more than 18 years and is the Senior Author for 69 NTP RoC Background Documents, also serving as the RoC Director for 13 years.

Dr. Jameson has participated as an IARC Working Group member, serving as overall Chair or Subgroup Chair, and he is author or co-author in numerous peer reviewed scientific publication and book chapters, as well as the editor of several editions of the RoC and co-editor of two books on toxicity testing. Dr. Jameson is a member of the American Chemical Society and the Society of Toxicology and he participates in peer reviews for six scientific journals.

Dr. Jameson engaged in a systematic review of the literature in this case, utilized a weight-of-evidence methodology utilized by NTP and IARC, and concluded that to a “reasonable degree of scientific certainty that glyphosate and glyphosate based formulations are probable human carcinogens” and also concluded “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations cause NHL in humans.”

5. Dr. Christopher Portier, Ph.D.

Dr. Portier received his PhD in Biostatistics (with a minor in Epidemiology) from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1981. For more than 32 years, Dr. Portier held prominent leadership positions with the federal government that combined the disciplines of toxicology, statistics and epidemiology, including:

• Associate Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) National Toxicology Program and thus the nation’s chief toxicologist, among other roles at NIEHS

• Director of the National Center for Environmental Health, Center for Disease and Prevention

• Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

Dr. Portier is a member of the Society of Toxicology and the American Public Health Association. Dr. Portier has also received many awards for his government and non-government work including the Best Paper Award from the Society of Toxicology, Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health, several “Paper of the Year” awards from the Society of Toxicology, the Outstanding Risk Practitioner Award of the Society for Risk Analysis, and was an elected fellow of the International Statistical Institute.

He has published 164 peer-reviewed articles, 35 journal reviews, 33 book chapters, and 46 reports and government agency publications, and he has participated in six IARC working groups, either as chair or a working group member. His experience encompasses the design, performance and analysis of studies, including animal bioassays (as well as the supervision thereof), that evaluate the carcinogenic effects of chemicals and pesticides on humans.

Dr. Portier engaged in a systematic review of the literature in this case, utilized the Bradford Hill Criteria, and concluded that “[i]n my opinion, glyphosate probably causes NHL and, given the human, animal and experimental evidence, I assert that, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, the probability that glyphosate causes NHL is high.”

6. Dr. Aaron Blair (will appear by videotape deposition testimony)

Dr. Aaron Blair, is a Scientist Emeritus at the National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch. He is a lead investigator of the Agricultural Health Study and the Overall Chair of the IARC 112 working group. Dr. Blair explained at his deposition how he weighed the totality of the epidemiology studies to support his opinion that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.

7. Dr. Matthew Ross (will appear by videotape deposition testimony)

Dr. Matthew Ross is an associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine, at Mississippi State University. He has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and expertise on the impact of environmental toxins on signal transduction pathways in cells. He was a part of the mechanism section of the IARC 112 working group. Dr. Ross explains why the strong evidence that glyphosate is genotoxic and causes oxidative stress are relevant to carcinogenicity in humans.

8. Dr. Chadi Nabhan, M.D., F.A.C.P

Dr. Nabhan is a board-certified clinical medical oncologist and past assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago. Currently, Dr. Nabhan serves as medical director of Cardinal Health. His clinical practice and academic research for the past 17 years has focused on lymphomas.

Dr. Nabhan also has a sub-specialty in the treatment of lymphomas. Until last year, he treated approximately 30 lymphoma patients per week. Dr. Nabhan regularly relies on both epidemiology and toxicology studies in his clinical practice and is well versed in the etiology, background and treatment of NHL. Dr. Nabhan engaged in a systematic review of the literature in this case, utilized the Bradford Hill Criteria, and concluded that “[t]he weight of the scientific evidence supports causality between Roundup/glyphosate exposure and NHL.”

Monsanto Expert Witnesses

Attorneys for Monsanto announced the following experts in order of scheduled appearance:

1. Thomas J. Rosol, DVM, PhD

Dr. Rosol, DVM, PhD, MBA is a professor of veterinary and experimental pathology, chair of Biomedical Sciences, ACVP diplomate; former dean and vice president for research at Ohio State University. He serves as senior advisor, Biotechnology, at the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization and Knowledge Transfer.

He served on boards to the NIH, USDA, EPA, AVMA, and Morris Animal Fdn and was a consultant in preclinical safety in endocrine, bone, and reproductive pathology and models of cancer. He investigates hypercalcemia, bone metastasis, prostate, breast, and head and neck cancer and is a mentor for over 50 PhD students and postdocs. Dr. Rosal received his PhD in Experimental Pathobiology from Ohio State University in 1986. He received his D.V.M. in 1981 from the University of Illinois.

2. Christopher D. Corcoran, ScD

Dr. Corcoran is a professor of Mathematics and Statistics and director of Data Management and Statistics Core, Center for Epidemiologic Studies, at Utah State University. Dr. Corcoran earned his ScD Biostatistics (with a minor in Genetic Epidemiology) in 1999 at Harvard University.

3. Jay I. Goodman, PhD

Dr. Goodman is a professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology at Michigan State University. His research interests are focused on discerning epigenetic mechanisms underlying carcinogenesis and other chemical-induced toxicities.

Dr. Goodman received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 1969 at The University of Michigan. He completed postdoctoral training at the University of Wisconsin. He has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award, Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, 1998; was Elected President of the Society of Toxicology, 1999-2000; the Distinguished Alumnus Award, Doctoral Program in Pharmacology, The University of Michigan, 2000; gave the John Barnes Prize Lecture, British Toxicology Society in 2005; and is the recipient of the Society of Toxicology's Merit Award, 2014.

4. Lorelei A. Mucci, ScD, MPH

Dr. Mucci is an associate professor of Epidemiology atHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her major research and teaching area is cancer epidemiology.

Dr. Mucci earned a BS in Biology at Tufts University, an MPH in Epidemiology from Boston University, and an ScD in Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health.

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