Bush Insulates Pesticide Makers from Lawsuits

The Bush administration is doing a big favor for pesticide manufacturers by instituting a new policy that will curb farmers’ ability to sue the companies if their products don’t work as promised. In a significant policy reversal, the U.S. EPA has reinterpreted a federal law and now claims that it bars suits against chemical manufacturers when their pesticides or herbicides harm a crop they are supposed to protect or fail to eradicate an insect or blight. Tom Buis of the National Farmers Union worries that the shift could leave farmers without legal recourse even if their harvests are destroyed. “[I]f a pesticide not only doesn’t do what it says it’s supposed to do, but also kills your crop, that could cost you a year’s income,” said Buis. The policy shift could also make it more difficult to sue pesticide makers when their products cause sickness or environmental damage. It “could really be disastrous for public health,” said Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council.