Erin Brockovich Urges Missouri Senate to Reject Pesticide Bill

HB 2763, already passed by the Missouri House, could give additional protections to manufacturers of products like Roundup

May 6, 2024 at 1:42 pm
Erin Brockovich, on stage in 2016, is "gravely concerned" about a bill passed by the Missouri House of Representatives.
Erin Brockovich, on stage in 2016, is "gravely concerned" about a bill passed by the Missouri House of Representatives. FLICKR/GAGE SKIDMORE

Renowned environmental activist Erin Brockovich wrote a letter to members of a key Missouri Senate committee, urging them to vote against a bill that she says would grant immunity to pesticide manufacturers. 

Brockovich’s letter to the Missouri Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee addresses House Bill 2763, saying she’s “gravely concerned” about the harm it could cause. The bill has already passed the Missouri House and is scheduled to be heard in executive session with the committee today.

“The bill would grant immunity to all pesticide manufacturers whose products cause cancer by allowing them to hide behind a deeply flawed and inadequate labeling procedure from the EPA,” Brockovich writes. 

As passed by the House, HB 2763 stipulates that companies selling pesticides are required only to use the EPA-mandated warnings for carcinogenicity, no other warning labels needed.

Brockovich says that’s highly concerning because pesticides obviously do not, and ethically cannot, undergo human testing before hitting store shelves. She cites Bayer AG’s weed-killing product Roundup (developed when the company was still St. Louis-based Monsanto), which lawsuits have linked to the development of various cancers in those who were exposed to it.

There were approximately 17 witnesses in support of the bill and 16 against it as of Monday afternoon, according to records with the legislature. One supporter was a Bayer employee; another was attorney Catherine Hanaway, the former U.S. Attorney for Missouri’s Eastern District, who attested that she was there to represent the company.

“We know all too well that some pesticides, after years of use by people, are discovered to be harmful to human health,” Brockovich writes.

Bayer has argued that exposure to Roundup does not pose a threat to human health. The company has won some lawsuits from people claiming the exposure led to their cancer and other maladies — but has also lost or settled many more

Brockovich urges members of the committee to vote against the legislation.

“In my many years as an advocate for people harmed by chemicals and environmental catastrophes, there is one pattern that remains consistent — companies that know about the damage their products can cause do everything they can to try to avoid being responsible for the destruction they unleash,” she writes. “That is exactly what is happening with HB 2763.”

What is most frustrating, she adds, is that so much of the harm caused by these chemicals could have been avoided if companies were honest about their products.

“But they weren’t, and people are now suffering from cancer or have even died because of their decisions," Brockovich writes. “Please do not allow their reckless decisions to cause even more harm to the citizens of your state by allowing them to avoid being responsible for their products.”

Update at 5:03 p.m. Bayer sent us the following statement:

"We support state and federal legislation alongside more than 360 agricultural and environmental organizations because the future of American farming depends on reliable science-based regulation of important crop protection products that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined safe for use.

This bill does not prevent anyone from suing pesticide manufacturers – it only affects the health and safety warning labels that already have an extensive regulatory process in place to warn of known potential harms caused by a pesticide. It simply ensures that any pesticide registered with the EPA – and sold under a label consistent with the EPA’s own determinations – is sufficient to satisfy requirements for health and safety warnings.

Absent legislative certainty that the EPA’s scientific decisions about glyphosate and other pesticides and the approved labels cannot be contradicted, billions of dollars in litigation against an approved product could still occur. This legislation would help address litigation that has been fueled by the litigation industry, targeting approved products.

If not addressed, the future of glyphosate and other valuable crop protection tools and critical innovations may be at stake."

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