Day 6: Monsanto’s Head of Consumer Safety Explains Why He Never Returned Plaintiff’s Phone Calls

July 19, 2018 | Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kevin Baum

Thanks to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for providing a first-hand account of the sixth day in court in the Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co. trial. Proceedings began in San Francisco Superior Court on July 9. The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma four years ago, claims Monsanto hid evidence that the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, caused his cancer. This is the first case to go to trial among hundreds of lawsuits alleging Roundup caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The trial is expected to last about a month.

Johnson vs. Monsanto continued Tuesday afternoon with videotaped testimony from Monsanto officials. Under questioning by our attorney, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law, chemical company executives and scientists chronicled Monsanto’s energetic efforts to sidestep the science linking Roundup to cancer and to expedite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) registration process for Roundup.

The first witness was Daniel Jenkins, Monsanto’s manager for regulatory affairs. Emails to Jenkins from Monsanto’s chief of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, Jess Rowland, exposed Rowland’s underhanded efforts to kill a critical safety review of glyphosate by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Rowland boasted to Jenkins, his Monsanto handler, that he “should get a medal for” using his EPA position to kill the ATSDR study. Defending the embarrassing email exchange on the stand, Jenkins looked like a rabbit in headlights. With sweating brow and darting eyes, he dodged questioning about the embarrassing email with non-responsive dissembling, “Monsanto doesn’t have any issue with a good scientific process taking place and giving the data and sharing it with them so it can be looked at and evaluated in an independent process!”

In response to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determination that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, Monsanto advised the EPA officials to delay the agency’s response to IARC’s classification. Jenkins counseled his EPA allies that from Monsanto’s point of view, “it’s a very bad move to be equivocal.” Clearly, he was buying time to orchestrate political pressure against the agency panjandrums.

Jenkins admitted in court that he had fired off a text message to Jennifer Listello, Monsanto’s chemistry global coordinator, ordering her to summons Monsanto’s congressional toadies to drill down at EPA: “What we need to do is get some key democrats on the Hill to start calling Jim [Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator]… Shoots across his bow generally that he is being watched, which is needed on several fronts.”

Plaintiff counsel then played the videotape testimony from Dr. Daniel Goldstein, Monsanto’s head of consumer complaints and consumer safety and the company official responsible for responding to public questions about Roundup’s safety. Goldstein testified that when the Plaintiff noticed pustulating lesions sprouting on the patches of his skin that were exposed while he was spraying Roundup on a school playground, our Plaintiff, the naively trusting Dewayne Johnson, reached out, not to the EPA, but to Monsanto to find out if there was any possible connection between Roundup and his skin rash.

Goldstein ignored the call. He testified that under normal circumstances, his “custom and practice… would be to try and contact the patient myself.” He elected however to stonewall Johnson. A year later when Johnson left another message reporting his cancer diagnosis, Goldstein continued to ignore the calls. Goldstein explained that there was no reason to call Johnson because Monsanto’s science said that Roundup does not cause cancer.

Under cross examination by Wisner, Goldstein admitted he was aware, for 14 years prior to Johnson’s exposure, of numerous studies linking glyphosate to cancer. Even after the IARC report, as Mr. Johnson fought the early stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he continued to expose himself to glyphosate because Goldstein refused to return his call and advise him to stop spraying.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a longtime environmental advocate and author of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family. He is an attorney of counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertKennedyJrLike him on Facebook.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.