Day 7 – Weighing Sh!t with a Gold Scale
Today feels peculiar. I walk through the halls of the fifth floor of the courthouse, and hear chatter and laughter. It appears that the jury is becoming chummy! Just last week, they sat in silence outside of the courtroom, but now there is banter. One male jury member has been rotating some wildly printed button down shirts and one looks like a sister of Ali Fedotowsky of The Bachelorette fame. Perhaps because the novelty of jury membership is wearing a bit thin, several members are dressing down. Our old friend, the avid notetaker, has traded his suit and tie for more subtle sweaters and I believe was apologetic about his more casual appearance.
SHORT TESTIMONY SUMMARY
Epidemiologist and practicing oncologist Dr. Neugut testifies (with humor in the mix) that he agrees with the IARC decision and concludes that the Andreotti 2017 epidemiological study with imputed data has faults that make it unreliable. (1)
He concludes that Roundup exposure can cause Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
EXPERT TESTIMONY OF DR. ALFRED I. NEUGUT
I love that when asked to introduce himself, MD/Epidemiologist Alfred I. Neugut includes his middle initial. Not his full middle name, just the initial. Like if I introduced myself as Glyphosate A. Girl. He must be important, and in fact he is.
Dressed in a perfectly professorial brown corduroy suit, Neugut captures the attention of the room. It feels like we are all back in college, and I love it. I love it so much that I look up local graduate programs in Epidemiology, but quickly recognize that it would involve studying more statistics at a personally unpleasurable level. I’m glad that Neugut does it for me.
And studied he has – his CV is seventy-five pages long. He spent his academic career at Columbia University where he practices Medical Oncology and teaches Cancer Epidemiology. He has a PhD/MD/Masters and has published over 600 papers. Grants awarded for his studies total between $40-$50 million dollars.
Neugut explains everything SO clearly that the jury appears relaxed and smiley. I speculate that some of the previous testimonies are starting to make more sense with some Epidemiology 101. He paints a fabulously intellectual overview of the history of the challenges in establishing causation, which we learn goes back to the days of the Greeks and Hippocrates.
Neugut emphatically states that within the academic and science communities, IARC is considered the pillar and main arbiter to determine what constitutes a carcinogen. He says that it would never cross his mind to look to the EPA for any kind of evaluation of carcinogenicity.
In opening statements, Monsanto claimed that IARC has only found something non-carcinogenic in one case out of 1000. They further suggested that the IARC evaluation process is clearly erring on the side of assuming carcinogenicity. Wisner asks Neugut his opinion on that statement, and Neugut responds: “That is idiotic!” Neugut explains that the other substances that IARC studied that have inconclusive, sparse data end up in the Group 3 category. (2) Furthermore, IARC only studies substances that are flagged in the community for potential carcinogenicity.
We also learn that:
- IARC released a brief in January 2018 to rebut all of the criticism and attacks flooded its direction since the glyphosate classification. Neugut walks through the brief, eloquently explaining some of the finer details. (3)
- IARC released a paper in 2015: IARC Monographs: 40 Years of Evaluating Carcinogenic Hazards to Humans. (4) Over 120 scientists co-authored this paper, including what Neugut calls “very famous cancer epidemiologists.” He jokes that given the caliber of the scientists on the list, he is upset that he was not one of the authors.
- When we look at the relevant epidemiological studies in this case, the meta-analysis shows a statistically significant combined risk ratio of 1.3 association of glyphosate exposure and NHL.
CROSS-EXAMINATION OF DR. ALFRED I. NEUGUT
Lombardi is leading Monsanto’s cross-examination. He has a loud, animated voice. It is the kind of dramatic voice that actor lawyers use on TV during questioning. At one point during the cross, Wisner objects that Lomardi is “standing four and a half feet from the witness and shouting” at him. Neugut responds with: “No, it’s ok, you can yell at me.” Neugut’s manner appears endearing to both the jury and the likes of me.
The distinctive styles of the members of Monsanto’s tag teaming attorney lineup provide a multitude of flavors. After Mr. Griffis’s more monotonic questioning of Dr. Portier, I don’t mind a little excitement and drama. As long as Dr. Neugut doesn’t mind.
Lombardi begins his cross predictably, aiming to paint Neugut’s testimony as tainted due to compensation from the Miller Law Firm. Neugut says that before the case, he had not reviewed glyphosate and had no opinion. After studying the materials, he has an opinion.
Lombardi asks if epidemiology deals with “the real world.” Neugut pauses and replies that he is having difficulty understanding what the “unreal world” would be in this scenario. I mean, this guy should add standup comedy to his resume.
I am wracking my brain as to who Dr. Neugut sounds like during this cross examination. It is apparent that he is very annoyed by the both the Defendant questioning and attempts at a bunch of “gotcha” moments that are relatively unconvincing. I know – his being-cross-examined voice sounds like a witty, New York City version of Harry Potter’s Professor Snape.
There is a lot of epidemiology discussed, so send me an email if you’d like more specific details. For now, truncated highlights:
- Lombardi points out that the authors of the Andreotti study are associated with government and universities like the NIH, HIEHS, University of Iowa – but not with Monsanto or industry. Neugut says that’s true, and mumbles “if associated with the government, we must be a bit suspicious.” True dat.
- Once again, Neugut explains why the Andreotti study is not to be relied upon. As he tires of answering what seems like the same, repeated question, he exclaims that the problematic study is “measuring shit with a gold scale.” HAHAHA! Lombardi says that his testimony may be bleeped out on the transcript.
- Lombardi shows a study that Neugut co-authored to the court. (5) Apparently, he used imputation in this study. GG SIDEBAR – anyone who has done any statistics understands that with a dataset that is incomplete, imputation is a tool that can successfully estimate missing or otherwise faulty data. Lombardi attempts to make a case that Neugut is hypocritical for criticizing the Andreotti study for using imputation methods because Neugut imputes as well. This argument is lame and embarrassing for Monsanto. The issue isn’t whether the technique of imputation is good or bad, but rather if the totality of factors put together for the imputation are reasonable.
- Several times Lombardi implies that Neugut is a liar because a few of his answers today are different than those taken in 2016 and 2017. Nothing looks dramatically dishonest to me, more nitpicky. I hope that the jury agrees. Towards the end of the cross, Neugut yells at pushy Lombardi, “Don’t misquote me!”
Thursday is off, Friday is on. On Monday, Johnson testifies.
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