House gives initial OK to bill protecting pesticide-makers

April 22, 2024



JEFFERSON CITY — Representatives gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that could protect pesticide manufacturers from some cancer lawsuits.

The debate on the House floor wasn’t split along party lines however, as several Republicans cautioned against the risk of cancers caused by pesticides.

HB 2763, sponsored by Rep. Dane Diehl, R-Butler, would protect pesticide manufacturers from claims that they failed to warn consumers of possible cancer risks in their products as long as the federal Environmental Protection Agency has approved those products.

Much of the debate focused on a specific pesticide manufacturer: Bayer, the company with U.S. headquarts in St. Louis that purchased Monsanto, the original manufacturer of RoundUp pesticide.

Bayer has pursued similar legislation in other agricultural states like Iowa and Idaho. According to The Associated Press, the company is seeking to stem a tide of lawsuits claiming that Bayer’s products cause cancer.

To date, the company has been embroiled in over 167,000 suits claiming that RoundUp is responsible for causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Some cases have been dismissed, but Bayer has also been forced to pay billions of dollars in restitution for others, according to the Associated Press.

Diehl, a farmer, said he drafted the legislation out of fear that Bayer would be forced to pull RoundUp off of the market. He pointed out that glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, has been regulated by the federal government for decades and that the product is critical for one of Missouri’s largest industries.

Other Republicans even raised the question of whether farmers would have to turn to other pesticide producers, possibly Chinese producers, if Bayer ceases production of RoundUp.

But Diehl got some pushback from fellow Republican Rep. Tricia Brynes of Wentzville, who criticized her party’s trust in the safety guarantees given by the EPA. She cited her experience working with the EPA and what she called its excessive bureaucracy.

“What I’m trying to say is this body hasn’t experienced that the EPA does not always have the ability that we think they have to protect people,” Brynes said.

The EPA has ruled in the past that glyphosate is not carcinogenic to humans.

Other Republicans in opposition voiced concerns that the legislation could have broader effects on how Missourians can exercise their 7th Amendment right to a trial by their peers.

Debate on the floor also took a somber tone, as representatives from both parties spoke about the toll of seeing their family members fight cancer or in fighting it themselves.

Rep. Jamie Johnson, D-Kansas City, pointed out what she termed the hypocrisy of her colleagues for pursuing this legislation after wishing her good health during her own fight with cancer.

“As I walked these halls, day by day, Mr. Speaker, fighting the side effects from chemotherapy,” Johnson said. “Every day not knowing if I was going to make it. With a burn from radiation that smelled and reeked of flesh, with a smile on my face, Mr. Speaker, no one knew what I was going through.”

The bill was approved on a voice vote and needs one more vote before it can go to the Senate for consideration.