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Iowa Bill Proposing Legal Immunity For Pesticide Manufacturers Advances

The legislation is supported by Bayer, the manufacturer of RoundUp, a pesticide linked with development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In 2020, Bayer agreed to pay $10 billion to settle cancer lawsuits.

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The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill Tuesday adding legal protections for pesticide manufacturers over failure to adequately warn consumers about the potential health risks associated with use of their products.

Senate Study Bill 3188 would provide civil liability defense to pesticide manufacturers in lawsuits over adverse health impacts of products that meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency labeling requirements. These liability protections do not apply to Chinese state-owned companies — a move targeting Syngenta, an agriculture science and chemical company owned by the state-owned ChemChina.

The legislation is supported by Bayer, the manufacturer of RoundUp, a pesticide linked with development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In 2020, Bayer agreed to pay $10 billion to settle cancer lawsuits.

In a subcommittee meeting on the bill Monday, Brad Epperly, speaking on behalf of Bayer, said the company is not able to make additional warnings outside of EPA regulations and current law. He said the bill would prevent lawsuits made on unproven bases, securing farmers’ use of certain chemical tools.

“There’s no regulatory body in the entire world who finds this carcinogenic,” Epperly said, speaking of RoundUp, a glyphosate-based herbicide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that it is “not likely” glyphosate is carcinogenic, but in 2022, a U.S. appeals court ordered the agency to reconsider those findings.

A similar bill, Senate File 2392, failed to advance through the second funnel deadline earlier in March. Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, criticized Republican lawmakers for bringing back the measure, pointing to the support of large agribusinesses for the measure. Bayer, as well as agriculture organizations like the Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa Corn Growers Association, were registered in support of the bill.

Dotzler said that despite the EPA findings and U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, there are still studies showing links between glyphosate products and increased rates of cancer.

“I don’t think that the science is caught up yet with with the real effects of some of these pesticides, and the FDA doesn’t necessarily have that good track record when it comes to it,” Dotzler said.

The FDA has wrongly labeled products as safe in the past, Dotzler said, pointing to DDT, a chemical used as a pesticide, which was banned from the U.S. in 1972 for its negative environmental impacts.

Sen. Jeff Edler, R-State Center, said multiple countries have deemed RoundUp and other products using glyphosate as safe. He said the discussion and lawsuits on RoundUp’s potential links with cancer follow findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research body, that found the chemical was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

“We’re trying to prevent what I’m going to call frivolous lawsuits and a loophole that has been used to sue with no cause,” Edler said. “Because this does not provide immunity for cause. You all know that, but we have not represented that clearly today, senators.”

Edler said the bill would provide farmers a tool to “keep America and Iowa’s food supply abundant, safe and efficient.” The committee passed the legislation in an 11-9 vote. It is now eligible for consideration by the full Senate.

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