Now More than 11,000 People Are Suing @Bayer over Weedkiller Cancer Risk.
Massaging Numbers in a Faustian Bargain Originally Posted by Dr. Ena Valikov.
Roundup, the most ubiquitous chemical in agriculture “does not cause cancer”…
…until it does- via a Whopping 41% Increased Risk of Lymphoma?!
AGRICULTURAL HEALTH STUDY (AHS)
Is this the truth?
OOOOPS. Glyphosate increases risks of lymphoma by 41% ?!
Two Dueling Studies: AHS vs Meta-Analysis (based on AHS)
Want the Truth?
Radical Idea: Read the Two Studies Pivotal in the “Bellwether” Case!
And rather carefully since Monsanto deemed the AHS the most valuable epidemiological study ina class action lawsuit involving thousands of plaintiffs and billions of dollars in damages riding on it.
But don’t worry about what’s riding on it and who wrote it–science is often simply about doing basic arithmetic, as I’ve pointed out about here, and here with a different “meta-analysis” It is fascinating how the AHS can be whitewashed in a meta-analysis to lead to an opposite desired conclusion.
Paul, read the study!
The National Cancer Institute occupational cohort study (AHS) enrolled two cohorts –applicants for commercial and private pesticide licenses. It also enrolled private pesticide licensee spouses following the cohorts through four phases.
The latest installment, phase IV was released to great fanfare last year and cited widely by pro-glyphosate advocates as the most comprehensive study on 54,000 (??) “farmers” proving decisively that Roundup does not cause cancer.
Commercial pesticide applicants could theoretically be operating out of a mansion in Bel Air with a crew of pesticide “handlers” doing the actual spraying. Private pesticide license holders are primarily conventional farmers likely spraying their fields themselves, and so the degree of exposure to Roundup between the two groups are presumably somewhat different.
No true control group without any occupational exposure-organic farmers not using Roundup were recruited- there was no unexposed group comparison. And since pesticide licenses are only required for restricted use of pesticides, and Roundup is not a restricted use pesticide. Thus farmers using a chemical marketed as safe as salt, coffee, and sunshine, who didn’t get safety training are likely exposed to much higher levels of Roundup than anyone in either cohort–but are not represented in this study.
So flaws are already evident in the basic study design in spite of “expansiveness” of the study enrolling over 89,651 “farmers”. The method of original selection is akin to recruiting groups to measure effects of cigarettes by comparing cancer rates of half a pack a day smokers to a pack a day smokers while excluding nonsmokers and three packs a day smokers.
But forget those methodological flaws- let’s just look at the arithmetic!
“Phase 4 was completed by 60% of the enrolled private applicators
and 61% of the enrolled spouses”
Please whip your calculators out and check the percentages of people followed up. Let’s start with the first row–the private pesticide applicators
24145/52394×100=48.08% -phase IV
HUH!! WHY IS 46% reported as 60%??
Maybe it is just a solitary goof up, an innocent arithmetical error?
Let’s repeat it in the next row, the spouses of private pesticide license applicants followed up. Because attrition of the male farmers might be somewhat compensated if the spouses were followed up.
Nope! There it is again! 56% of spouses reported as 61%, the same as in the summary!
What is so special about 60%?
Once is an error, twice is an unlikely coincidence, but that weird 60% again, four separate times, National Cancer Institute– inflating the numbers of people followed up? It’s not a sporadic mistake, it is weird shenanigans deliberately misleading and fraudulent.
Wonder why? Let’s learn a bit about fundamental guidelines on follow up in cohort studies.
The study that Monsanto deemed it’s strongest scientific evidence–not once, not twice, but on four separate occasions published fraudulent data because epidemiologists consider studies with less than 60% retention rates of limited validity.
Instead of admitting that losses to follow up introduced significant bias if they were due to Roundup exposure resulting in lymphoma, for instance, they fudged the numbers to underestimate risks of lymphoma by blatantly posting misleading, outright wrong percentages, to avoid raising suspicions.
If this is not fraud, I do not know what is.
And it gets better. Epidemiologists understand that nonrandom losses to follow up can magnify bias further, such that even losses of 10% of the cohorts are considered unacceptable if they are differential. Lo and behold, an entire cohort disappears in stages 3 and 4 of the study, compounding bias.
1. Re 2018 AHS study, Monsanto notes the study authors concluded there was no association between glypphosate & NHL or its subtypes. Back on direct, plaintiff atty notes that Table 3 lists results for 5 & 20 yr lags for subtypes. NHL t-cell 20 yr lag ratio is almost 3
2. and Portier says that’s statistically significant.
Atty: So when it says no observed association with any subtype, is that even factually true?
Atty: Sir, is this a good study?
P: No, it’s not.412:38 PM – Mar 1, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee Helen Christophi’s other Tweets
The missing data and gaps one can drive a Mack truck through are mitigated by “imputation” as the student who wrote the second study, the “explosive” meta-analysis, based on the AHS study mentions, which Carey does not notice.
Imputation is simply a fancy word for estimates.
I personally generate fairly tight imputations for my work as a vet and I am often off by about 20% but anyone who’s hired a contractor would be thrilled with a 20% discrepancy. Estimates under the best of circumstances performed in good faith can be done well or very badly, in other words.
Carey’s Guardian article manipulates the public using the very same strategy often employed by Pharma to oversell and over-hype ineffective or unsafe drugs–highlighting relative risk without putting it into the context of absolute risk.
97% of average readers never ever read past the headline, 2% read the entire article, while 0.9% click on the original study’s abstract, and 0.1% read the actual peer-reviewed study. How many people do you suppose cross-checked the complex computer-generated statistical “imputations” or the statistical veracity of the meta-analysis or understood the sleigh of hand Carey used to misrepresent the meta-analysis?
It’s a safe bet that a number of readers are approximately zero– a statistical black box, as naturally comprehensible, intuitive and accessible as the one holding Schrodinger’s dead and alive cat.
Will these shennanigans sway the judge in the first “bellwether” Round Up Lymphoma case?
I don’t think sooo.
The Buzz of Carey’s Obvious PR Campaign
Can AHS that blatantly lies about simple arithmetic and easily verifiable percentages be trusted with complicated statistical gymnastics we cannot independently calculate ourselves, be extrapolated further in a meta-analysis, losing accuracy with every layer of assumptions and approximations?
No one seemed to have asked. They all seem to believe that science is mixing together rotten meat (the AHS study) with fresh peas, carrots, potatoes, apples, and oranges (the smaller case-control studies) in a crock-pot transforms the spoiled bits of AHS into a fresh gourmet meal–an accurate meta-analysis.
Sorry to inform you, but our Rachel Carson award-winning book author, our “truth-telling veteran investigative journalist” and “research director” at US Right to Know, with the article in the Guardian-shared over 20,000 times obviously never read the AHS or the meta-analysis incorporating the fraudulent AHS, nor did her partisan “journalist” friends–Michael Balter, Paul Thacker, GM Watch, GMO-Free USA, Food Babe, Food Democracy Now–not to mention the anonymous trolls recruiting “soldiers” into this “food movement” / US Right to Know Army
Not sure they would understand either if they did, apart from the click-baity bits.
Sifting through AHS dumpster for nuggets-Hypothyroidism
This journalist ally of Carey’s with Thacker in science defense has 40 years of experience in science reporting on fossils– which in case you missed it, have been dead for thousands of years–bizarrely believes himself qualified in medicine of the living as he comments on hypothyroidism veterinarians see on a daily basis.
Hilariously he has no idea that hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism–the most common endocrinopathies seen by most veterinary hospitals on a daily to weekly basis–are polar opposites of each other.
He clearly couldn’t care less if this information ever reaches medical professionals. If it was really about hypothyroidism or lymphoma to advance animal or human health, he’d certainly be reporting on it in JAMA, JAVMA, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, where endocrinopathies are customarily discussed by medical professionals who diagnose and treat living breathing patients with this all too common disease.
For Carey’s team, there is no difference between science and politics. The AHS gave linking Roundup with hypothyroidism and leukemia so our “science”- defending journalism team will be happy to trade off and compromise on lymphoma and roll the rotting fraudulent AHS over into a meta-analysis that undergoes a spontaneous metamorphosis into a dazzling edifice of scientific certainty that is supposed to sway a jury and a judge that Round Up caused lymphoma. These folks are not Einsteins, methinks.
Study touted by #Monsanto and allies as giving #glyphosate a clean bill of health actually found a possible association with the most common form of acute leukemia in adults (AML.) Authors urged followup studies. #media? See eg: https://on.nrdc.org/2jsiNHJ @nrdc147:36 AM – Mar 1, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacyUpdated Ag Health Study of Glyphosate and CancerThe Natural Resources Defense Council works to safeguard the earth – its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.nrdc.org24 people are talking about this
None could tell you in person what’s in the AHS or the “meta-analysis” –even if they read it–these veteran science journalists failed elementary school math!!
Striking a Faustian Bargain
The “meta-analysis” is a mash-up of heterogenous case-control studies with a prospective cohort (AHS) study in which the authors emphasizing several points.–the highly unusual methodology, discarding all data except for the highest levels of occupational exposure to farmers and listing pages upon pages of limitations which Carey obviously missed.
A meta-analysis is as good as the sum of its individual studies. No matter how fancy the statistics, you can not build a robust meta-analysis based on studies with weak evidence any more than erecting a house with weight bearing beams and joists of rotting wood on a warped foundation.
As I contend, the AHS study was fraudulent, but suppose that it was not. The authors discarded all the AHS data except for thehighest occupational exposures, including in a lengthy study just one sentence Carey wanted for perfect sensationalized click-bait: glyphosate raises (relative) risks of lymphoma by 41%!!
MAKING SENSE OF RELATIVE AND ABSOLUTE RISKS
The lifetime risk of lymphoma in 2019 is 1/42 in men and 1/54 in women. Which means that according to Carey’s team, if a farmer is using glyphosate at a maximum level for a maximum period of time, and has none of the risk factors recognized by cancer experts–their lifetime risk rises from 2.3% to 3.25% in a lifetime. Epic win for the Anti-Roundup Team? Certainly not a tabloid journalism clickbaity byline. The self-appointed science guardians, unfortunately, appear to lack traits one seeks in a science journalist- curiosity, skepticism, and competence in science starting with elementary school arithmetic. Because figuring out when science is used to manipulate rather than inform does not get much easier than this.
And for a team this incompetent in science, what are the odds of them being good at judicial chess?
The approximated risks in the hyped “meta-analysis” only apply toextreme occupational exposure and is absolutely irrelevant to the general public.
You see why pro-GMO, pro-glyphosate people like it?
If a plaintiff has no accepted risk factors for lymphoma- his lifetime risk rose by less than one percent. Brilliant!
Yee testifies that Hardeman was declared cured of Hep C after testing negative for the virus for 5 years.
Plaintiff’s attys are spending tons of time questioning Hardeman’s doctors about Hep C to establish that he was cured of the virus long before his NHL diagnosis. Probably indicates Monsanto will focus heavily on trying to convince the jury that Hep C caused his NHL, not Roundup.13:29 PM – Mar 1, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee Helen Christophi’s other Tweets
Does Roundup Cause Lymphoma?
The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in animals and limited in humans classifying it as a probable carcinogen.
Studies generally show a positive correlation between multiple pesticides used in farming, especially and worryingly in children! But the very fact that multiple chemicals are used and the long lag time between exposure and disease makes it very challenging to parse out the effects of a single pesticide considering the complex formulations and cocktails.
. My opinion is, that neither the AHS nor the Carey-hyped “meta-analysis” offer credible evidence that Roundup does or does not cause lymphoma in humans. Neither got us any closer to the truth.
And an astute science minded judge will see right through the manipulation. So, in the bellwether case on farmer lymphoma, the judge unsurprisingly tosses Carey’s entire idea of “science and truth” to the curb by bifurcating the case causing spasms of consternation for depriving the jury of “evidence”.
He directs the plaintiffs to first prove causation of lymphomabefore anything in Carey’s science-free book of anecdotes and chapters of insinuations called Whitewash that by the way, garnered a Rachel Carson award from American Society for Environmental Journalism, documenting in tedious detail the“industry playbook”(and is just one of dozens in that genre that includes such science luminaries as the Food Babe) is deemed relevant to whether hard science supports the claim that Round Up actually caused human cancer!
And when the judge restricts plaintiffs suing for lymphoma to hard science on causation alone deeming your “nuggets of truth” and your book completely irrelevant to the case–you do what your singular specialty has been all along– you smear the judge’s integrity with insinuations.
Because when you are science incompetent and your career is vested in the outcome of your Public Relations campaign– insinuations are your entire playbook.
Insightful story on Judge Chhabria’s role in the Hardeman v. Monsanto proceedings by Joel Rosenblatt at Bloomberg @business. Check it out. #MonsantoTrial https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-21/roundup-judge-loosens-his-grip-on-monsanto-ghosts-haunting-bayer …76:16 PM – Mar 22, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacyRoundup Judge Loosens His Grip on Monsanto Ghosts Haunting BayerTo understand the depth of Bayer AG’s reversal of fortune in the trial over its Roundup weed killer, one need look no further than the judge handling the proceeding.bloomberg.comSee Helen Christophi’s other Tweets