The lawyers for a former school groundskeeper suing Monsanto over his terminal cancer accused the company on July 27 of submitting fraudulent study data to U.S. regulators so it could sell its Roundup herbicide. The accusation went against court orders barring testimony on the subject.
The attorneys for DeWayne Johnson were referring to a study conducted in the mid-1970’s by Industrial Bio-Test (IBT) Laboratories. The now-defunct lab was hired by Monsanto to conduct toxicology studies on glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which is a required step before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will approve an herbicide.
The agency approved Roundup for sale in 1974, based in part on IBT’s findings. However, that data was later found to contain discrepancies that invalidated the lab’s conclusions that glyphosate was safe.
When the EPA took a closer look at the data, it found that IBT routinely falsified data, and 3 of its executives were convicted of fraud, according to Johnson’s complaint.
The complaint states that an EPA reviewer said of IBT that it is “hard to believe the scientific integrity of the studies when they said they took specimens of the uterus from male rabbits.”
Yeah …male rabbits don’t have a uterus.
Testimony regarding IBT’s shoddy research practices had been excluded before trial because Monsanto was not responsible for the study and the judge didn’t want to bias the jury.
But that didn’t stop Johnson’s attorney, Brent Wisner, from questioning an expert witness July 27 about a series of animal cancer tests conducted in the early 1980’s, which suggest that Monsanto knowingly submitted bogus data to the EPA to squeeze past the agency’s licensing requirements.
“We just established that Roundup was approved in the 1970s, yet this mouse study was done in 1983 and this rat study was done in 1981. Is it fair to say that between the original registration and [the early 1980s], there were no valid mouse or rat studies” of glyphosates carcinogenicity?
An attorney for Monsanto objected to the question, which was sustained.
Later on, however, when Wisner questioned the expert, Charles Benbrook, Benbrook admitted that Monsanto “didn’t have any valid studies” in the 1970s, despite Roundup’s 1984 approval.
Johnson, 46, sued Monsanto in 2016 after being diagnosed with a cutaneous (skin) form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He developed cancerous lesions over most of his body after he was twice drenched with Roundup while spraying school grounds when he was working for the Benicia Unified School District.
He alleges in the complaint that Monsanto was aware of the carcinogenic nature of glyphosate for decades, but failed to disclose the information to the public for fear it would damage its multi-billion dollar global business.
One of the ways in which Monsanto covered up the damning data was by suppressing scientific evidence that Roundup causes cancer, including the 1983 study, according to Johnson.
The study he is referring to found a statistically significant number of benign and malignant kidney tumors in a group of male mice dosed with high amounts of glyphosate. The finding led the EPA to classify glyphosate as a possible human carcinogen in 1985.
WHO Expert: “Glyphosate is Definitely Genotoxic”
But when Monsanto re-evaluated the data, they found an additional benign tumor in the control group, which led the company to conclude that the reported cancer was no longer statistically significant.
Immediately after, the EPA withdrew its carcinogenicity finding but recommended that Monsanto repeat the study. Johnson alleges the company pressured the EPA to withdraw the finding.
Monsanto refused to repeat the study.
On cross-examination, an attorney for Monsanto said the discovery of the additional benign tumor drove the results “away from significance.”
But Wisner pointed out that the historical control group data indicated the tumors were rare, which suggested they were caused by glyphosate.
Johnson’s lawsuit is the first of thousands to go before a jury. The outcome of the trial could set the foundation for future cases.
 Courthouse News