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For a particular state rule to be pre-empted under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C.S. § 136 et seq., it must satisfy two conditions. First, it must be a requirement for labeling or packaging; rules governing the design of a product, for example, are not pre-empted. Second, it must impose a labeling or packaging requirement that is in addition to or different from those required under FIFRA. A state regulation requiring the word "poison" to appear in red letters, for instance, would not be pre-empted if an Environmental Protection Agency regulation imposed the same requirement.
Petitioner Texas peanut farmers allege that their crops were severely damaged by the application of respondent's (Dow) "Strongarm" pesticide, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered pursuant to its authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Petitioners gave Dow notice of their intent to sue, claiming that Strongarm's label recommended its use in all peanut-growing areas when Dow knew or should have known that it would stunt the growth of peanuts in their soil, which had pH levels of at least 7.0. In response, Dow sought a declaratory judgment in the Federal District Court, asserting that FIFRA pre-empted petitioners' claims. Petitioners counterclaimed, raising several state-law claims sounding in strict liability, negligence, fraud, and breach of express warranty. The District Court rejected one claim on state-law grounds and found the others barred by FIFRA's pre-emption provision, 7 U.S.C. § 136v(b). Affirming, the Fifth Circuit held that § 136v(b) expressly pre-empted the state-law claims because a judgment against Dow would induce it to alter its product label.
Did § 136v(b) expressly pre-empt the state-law claims because a judgment against Dow would induce it to alter its product label?
The U.S. Supreme Court held, however, that Dow’s mere motivation to change its label based on the farmers' state law claims did not by itself amount to a state labeling requirement, and thus the pre-emption of labeling requirements under § 136v(b) only applied to successful claims which would actually require relabeling. Therefore, claims for negligence in manufacturing and testing the pesticide and breach of the warranty on the pesticide's label were not pre-empted, but it remained to be determined whether claims of fraud and failure-to-warn were pre-empted.