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Iowa Senate Votes to Limit Pesticide Illness Lawsuits

Iowa Public Radio’s Katarina Sostaric reported Wednesday that “Republicans in the Iowa Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would bar Iowans with severe illnesses from suing pesticide manufacturers for failing to warn them of potential health risks like cancer.”

“Republican supporters of the bill said it would ensure pesticide companies are not sued for following federal labeling rules, while Democrats said the bill sides with corporations against Iowans facing terminal illness,” Sostaric reported.

Iowa Capital Dispatch’s Jared Strong reported that the bill “would protect Bayer against claims it failed to warn people about the potential health effects of Roundup so long as its product is labeled as required by federal regulators. The legislation would apply to all domestic producers of herbicides and pesticides, but eliminating the failure-to-warn claims is part of Bayer’s public strategy to ‘manage and mitigate the risks of Roundup litigation,’ according to its website.

Bayer at the Center of the Law

Civil Eats’ Lisa Held reported at the end of March that “while other states have seen a flurry of more than 100,000 lawsuits brought by individuals claiming Roundup—the most widely used commercial product that contains the weedkiller glyphosate—had caused their cancers, Iowa stands apart. Especially in agriculture, most people trust the safety of pesticides, locals say, and Roundup is the most common and coveted.”

“Insiders say (Bayer’s) using the outsized sway it holds among the public and elected officials in agricultural states to quietly execute a new strategy: Pass laws, state by state, that take away farmers’ and other individuals’ ability to sue if they get sick,” Held reported.

“In addition to Iowa and Idaho, similar bills have been introduced in Missouri and Florida,” Held reported. “At the same time, the pesticide industry’s trade association CropLife America is working hard to pass a federal law that would bar states from passing their own laws that restrict pesticide use based on risks. The multi-pronged strategy is just one example of how multi-billion-dollar global companies use their influence to change laws and keep pesticides on the market—and the stakes in this case are high.”

However, a group of 20 U.S. Senators wrote a letter to Senate leaders to “express our strong opposition to any efforts to limit existing state and local authority to regulate pesticides–including restrictions on state labeling requirements or state and local regulatory processes–in the upcoming Farm Bill or any other legislation.”

According to the Lawsuit Information Center, “Monsanto (which is owned by Bayer) has reached settlement agreements in nearly 100,000 Roundup lawsuits. Monsanto paid approximately $11 billion. …Although these settlements account for nearly two-thirds of all Roundup claims, Monsanto estimates 54,000 active Roundup lawsuits remain.”

Iowa Bill Supporter Reasoning

Sostaric reported that “Senate President Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said the bill is needed to protect modern farming practices.”

“’Iowa feeds the world,’ Sinclair said,” according to Sostaric. “’And we need partners in that who aren’t constantly under threat of lawsuits for following the very laws governing the way they do business.’”

Strong reported that Sen. Jeff “Edler and other Republicans argue that allegations about Roundup’s negative health effects are too flimsy to warrant the mountain of litigation that they say has driven its cost higher for crop farmers and has the potential to end its production and use. Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said without Roundup, the state’s farmers ‘will have to return to pre-modern methods’ of crop production.”

Iowa Bill Opponent Reasoning

Sostaric reported that “Senate Minority Leader Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said the bill takes away Iowans’ right to sue for being sickened by pesticides, and it protects multinational corporations.”

“’This bill is stripping away the legal protections for Iowa farmers,’ she said,” according to Sostaric. “‘And they are the people who are getting diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s from chemicals they’re putting on their land that we know [are] causing it.’”

Strong reported that “several Democrats who spoke against the bill during a Senate debate on Tuesday portrayed it as a capitulation to corporations over the needs of residents and downplayed the lawsuits’ potential effects on agriculture.”

Future of the Iowa Bill

Strong reported that “the bill passed with a 30-19 vote. All Senate Democrats voted against it, and they were joined by four Republicans: Sens. Kevin Alons of Salix, Mark Lofgren of Muscatine, Sandy Salmon of Janesville, and Jeff Taylor of Sioux Center.”

Sostaric reported that the Iowa “House Ways and Means Committee had the bill scheduled for a vote earlier Tuesday, but did not bring the bill up for a vote. Republican Rep. Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton, who chairs the committee, said the bill is ‘still very much alive.'”

“’We’re just working through questions that members had,’ he said, according to Sostaric’s reporting. “’It’s a big bill. And big bills take time. And we’re just going back and doing our homework on some questions that I was asked.’”

Ryan Hanrahan is the Farm Policy News editor and social media director for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked in local news, primarily as an agriculture journalist in the American West. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri (B.S. Science & Agricultural Journalism). He can be reached at

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