Bayer, the manufacturer of the herbicide Roundup, is seeing mixed results from recent lobbying efforts to pass laws in key states. If ultimately passed, the legislation could help shield Bayer from lawsuits alleging its weed killer causes cancer.

This year, strikingly similar bills were introduced in Iowa, Missouri and Idaho, designed to protect companies from cancer risk claims provided their product labels comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Earlier this week, the Missouri House voted in support of Bayer’s proposal. The legislation is now on its way to the Missouri Senate. Similar legislation was defeated in Idaho and Iowa but is expected to reappear in 2025.

The push by Bayer to influence state legislation comes after the company, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, faces billions of dollars in personal injury lawsuit payments. The repercussions of the bills, if passed, could pave the way for broader immunity in product liability issues, potentially affecting more than just pesticide claims.

“It’s just not good government to give a company immunity for things that they’re not telling their consumers,” Matt Clement, a Missouri attorney who represents people suing Bayer, told the Associated Press. “If they’re successful in getting this passed in Missouri, I think they’ll be trying to do this all over the country.”

Thousands of people have sued Bayer, claiming the use of its Roundup product caused them to develop serious health complications, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers. Glyphosate, the chemical that was once in all formulations of the weed killer, has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organization.

The EPA, in opposition to the WHO, states the ingredient is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Bayer stands by its product, stating it’s safe to use.

In recent years, Bayer has faced mixed outcomes in the legal battlefront, winning some cases, settling others and losing some that resulted in nuclear judgments. Over 40,000 active Roundup lawsuits remain in litigation. Nearly 4,300 cases are pending in multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of California as of April 1.

The common complaint? The company failed to warn about health dangers.

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What Would It Mean If the Bills Pass?

If passed, the bills would grant significant legal protection to companies like Bayer, against lawsuits that claim the products cause cancer. This would effectively reduce the number of successful claims that can be brought against a company by people who claim they were harmed by the use of the products.

It could also cause a shift in liability standards, replacing regulatory compliance over the duty to inform or warn about potential risks that aren’t covered under EPA regulations. This could limit the scope of information that companies are required to provide about a product’s safety.

Critics argue that the laws could compromise consumer safety by making it harder for people to seek redress and hold companies accountable for harmful products. That could lead to a decrease in corporate accountability.

Product liability and torts expert Jonathan Cardi told the AP, “The way it’s drafted makes it interpretable to mean nobody could bring any suit.” Cardi, an expert at Wake Forest University, made the comment about the Iowa legislation.

Lobbyists disagreed, the AP reported.

Roundup’s Troubled History

Roundup was introduced by Monsanto in the 1970s and is used extensively in commercial, agricultural and residential settings. The herbicide is nonselective and will kill any plant it comes in contact with.

Despite the potential link to cancer, the product has not been banned in the United States. Some European countries have banned the use of glyphosate.

However, in 2023, Bayer reformulated its residential version and replaced glyphosate as the active ingredient. The company’s CEO stressed it was not because the product was dangerous for users, but was a strategic move to manage litigation risks.

Potential health effects of glyphosate exposure could include asthma, diarrhea, eye and skin irritation, nausea and vomiting, and respiratory irritation.