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Weedkiller manufacturer is requesting assistance from lawmakers to refute allegations that it neglected to issue a cancer warning



Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Chemical behemoth Bayer, hurt by having to pay billions of dollars in settlements and legal fees, has been pleading with legislators in three states to enact legislation that would insulate it from litigation alleging that its well-known weed killer Roundup causes cancer.

With language provided by Bayer, nearly identical bills were introduced this year in Iowa, Missouri, and Idaho. If their labels otherwise complied with US EPA regulations, pesticide companies would be shielded from accusations that they neglected to warn that their product causes cancer.

However, legal experts caution that the measure may have wider ramifications, perhaps covering product liability claims in general or, as in Iowa’s case, offering immunity from all types of lawsuits. Opponents claim it might become national.

Legal representative Matt Clement of Jefferson City, Missouri, said, “It’s just not good government to give a company immunity for things that they’re not telling their consumers.” Clement is defending clients who are suing Bayer. “I believe they will try to do this across the nation if they are successful in passing this in Missouri.”

The legislation, according to Bayer, is one tactic to deal with the “headwinds” the company encounters. Legal claims against Bayer number about 167,000, and the company refutes the allegations that Roundup causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The business has resolved numerous cases and won some, but it has also lost several cases where jurors handed down hefty initial judgments. About $10 billion has been paid, but thousands of claims are still pending in court.

The main ingredient in Roundup has been linked to cancer in some studies, but the EPA has consistently determined that it is unlikely to cause cancer in people.

The head of communications for Bayer’s crop science division, Jess Christiansen, stated that the expenses associated with “defending a safe, approved product” are not manageable.

The legislation, which is at a different stage in each of the targeted states that are essential to Bayer’s Roundup activities, was introduced. It failed in Idaho, where this year’s legislative session came to a close, but it cleared the Iowa Senate and is currently awaiting discussion in the Missouri House.

The majority of farmers depend on Roundup, which was first released half a century ago as a more effective means of managing weeds and minimizing soil erosion and tilling. It is intended to function with genetically modified seeds that are resistant to Roundup’s lethal effects for crops like maize, soybeans, and cotton.

Farmer-state representative Dane Diehl of Missouri, who collaborated with Bayer to promote the bill, expressed worry that expensive legal actions may compel Bayer to remove Roundup from the American market, forcing farmers to rely on substitute herbicides imported from China.

“In the end, this product is a tool that we need,” Republican Diehl stated.

In an email, the Republican governor of Iowa Kim Reynolds stated that without the law, “Iowa risks losing hundreds of jobs” in Muscatine, the eastern Iowa city where Roundup is mostly produced.

Public records on Bayer’s correspondence with Reynolds’ office are being sought by the Associated Press.

Like other businesses, Bayer employs lobbyists in several states to promote its objectives. In the states where “we have a big, direct economic impact,” the corporation supports this legislation, according to Christiansen.

Idaho phosphate mines provide glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. Additionally, its North American agricultural science branch, which it acquired in 2018 when it bought Monsanto, is headquartered in St. Louis. Consequently, a large number of lawsuits are brought in Missouri.

While the number of lobbyists working for Bayer in Missouri increased from four to nine this year, the five lobbyists registered for the company in Iowa and the three in Idaho are essentially comparable with previous years. This year, Idaho saw more than $8,000 in lobbyist spending; comparable data was not available in Iowa or Missouri.

Tens of thousands of dollars are also being spent on print and radio ads by a coalition of agricultural groups known as Modern Ag Alliance, which is led by Bayer, asserting that litigation and trial lawyers pose a threat to the supply of glyphosate.

According to the group’s website, 800 jobs in Idaho and 500 jobs in Iowa are at jeopardy because of glyphosate production.

Bayer refrained from threatening to close stores. Christiansen stated that the Iowa facilities, including the one in Muscatine, “are very critical facilities to our business, so we’ll remain at some sort of support level.”

The way that Bayer, like any other pesticide firm, informs customers about the safety of its chemicals is at stake in the litigation and legislation.

Businesses must register their products with the EPA, which assesses and reassesses pesticides and their labels every 15 years. In 2020, the EPA reaffirmed that there were no health hazards to humans when glyphosate was used as indicated. However, in 2022, a panel of a federal appeals court said that the judgment “was not supported by substantial evidence” and mandated that the EPA do more review.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, stated in a 2015 report that there is “sufficient” evidence of glyphosate-related cancer in study animals and “limited” evidence of cancer in humans, which sparked an intense discussion about the chemical.

California attempted to include a cancer warning label on glyphosate-containing items in response to that global report. But last November, a federal appeals court decided against California, finding that the warning was not supported by the evidence.

Christiansen stressed that the EPA is supported by other regulatory bodies across the globe and demanded that Bayer adhere to EPA labeling in order to make sure it isn’t giving inaccurate or misleading information. She went on to say that the business is open about the information it does give.

Opponents of the legislation don’t seem to be persuaded, noting instances like asbestos and painkillers that were thought to be safe for use as prescribed but weren’t.

According to Andrew Mertens, executive director of the Iowa Association for Justice, a group that represents trial lawyers, there are also worries that the rule may suppress any product liability claims because the majority rest on the defense that the manufacturer neglected to provide a warning.

A rigorous interpretation of the Iowa Act goes beyond liability claims, according to Jonathan Cardi, a product liability and torts expert at Wake Forest University School of Law. He added that “the way it’s drafted makes it interpretable to mean nobody could bring any suit.”

During their interactions with parliamentarians and the AP, Bayer executives refuted the notion that the bill would end further legal proceedings. According to a number of legal experts, the proposal is unlikely to have an impact on the 18,000 cases that are currently outstanding in Jefferson City, Missouri, and it wouldn’t stop comparable claims in places where it isn’t passed.

The plan in Idaho was barely defeated by the Republican-led Senate due to worries about limiting the power of damaged persons to sue and depending too much on federal agencies’ safety standards.

After running on a platform of defending Iowans, John Gilbert, a farmer in Iowa Falls, Iowa, who uses little Roundup, branded Republicans hypocritical for seeking to further corporate interests.

The Iowa Farmers Union board member Gilbert stated that the bill “invites a lot of reckless disregard.” “Pure perfume won’t transform it into anything other than a skunk.”